Cargo Tracking Note or CTN as it is popularly known is not one of those instantly obvious things you would think about when drafting a seaborne shipment.. You may not even have heard about it..
But if you want to sell your product in a number of African countries, then the topic of CTN certification becomes imminent, especially West and Central Africa..
With each destination country having its own regulations, requirements, and name of loading certificates it all makes it even more complicated..
We caught up with CTN expert Kyle Hallner, to unfold some common topics on this subject.. Readers can contact him directly as well with any testing questions about CTN certificate..
SFR: Hi Kyle, can you give a brief about yourself, your company and the services you provide..
Kyle: I am CTN expert working at GetCTN, the world’s leading CTN platform. I have been dealing with hurdles of international trade for a while now, since my graduate placement job 15 years ago.
Today GetCTN has a client base all around the world, more than 1000 Companies, including some multinational corporations, rely on our service to supply their CTN for export shipments to Africa. Although the company enjoys immense expertise in logistics and transportation services, our know-how is predominantly in and around CTN loading certificates.
We provide, and this is only what we do, CTN certification service and consultation to companies of all sizes, in almost all industries — from agriculture, food, and personal items, to chemicals, electronics, and other goods, and for all types of shipments — from containerised, Ro-Ro and Mafi, to Break Bulk shipments of petroleum, aircraft, and vessels.
SFR: You say GetCTN works with companies of all sizes, what has been your remarkable experience?
Kyle: Correct. Our team has experience in accomplishing CTN certificate for Bulk shipments of giant corporations. A few to mention would be 50,000 MT Break Bulk Gasoil shipment to Liberia, and the Vessel with 80,000 DWT, which was transported to Madagascar.
However, the one that left a breathtaking sentiment was a Helicopter set for a voyage from the US to West-Africa on a bulk vessel. I was honoured and felt so much responsibility because somebody has put faith in us for handling the CTN certification for something as precious as a copter.
I was also astonished when I was contacted by the Ministry of Defence to provide procedures for the same certification. Soon after that conversation, we have organised ECTN certificate for arms export consignment. By the way, speaking of ECTN, this is just the same certificate as CTN.
Different countries in Africa name this document differently, check out for the full list of CTN requiring countries and the procedures via this link. However, whether it is BESC, CTN, ECTN, CNCA, BIETC, FERI, CEE, the general purpose of the tracking certification is all the same.
SFR: What is the most challenging part of BSC/CTN application?
Kyle: Well, nothing is that straight forward when forming the CTN application. I understand why many find it difficult to fulfil. It is a complex subject, I know it from my own experience whilst I was working for a forwarding company.
One small mistake, all the energy you’ve invested in creating the certification goes out of the window. Trust me, that is a lot of hours if you are to research the BSC topic from scratch without anyone’s assistance.
The certificate ought to be annulated by any little error and you will have all the hard time trying to clear the cargo at the destination. Picture this, just apply for one Ivory Coast BSC certificate, one needs to put together 8 documents.
Another one, this one is the best, you need a Bill of Lading/Draft BL to apply for a CTN number, but some shipping line asks for CTN number to issue preliminary version of BL. How would you pit yourself against such a facepalm scenario? These detrimental challenges are basically the motive brough the GetCTN to life.
To address these obstacles and save exporters/freight forwarders all vital time they would otherwise spend on the CTN applications.
SFR: What are the possible consequences if the shipper ignored the CTN requirement?
Kyle: If the shipper or the exporter omit the CTN prior to loading of the vessel, he/she must be prepared to face heavy consequences. The Authorities of different destination countries take contrasting actions for violating the CTN regulation. Several to mention would be:
- The consignee will not be able to clear their cargo.
- You will receive daily demurrage/storage levy on a daily basis.
- The shipping line will press Manifest amendment charge as well as passing the levy they face due to loading the containers without compulsory certification.
But this doesn’t end here. Depending on the type, volume, and nature of one’s shipment, the destination customs personnel have the power to impose a fine for breaching the BSC guidelines. This value can be up to 5 times the value of the goods being held.
I have encountered many cases when shipper faced a bill over €100k for couple 40’ feet containers. In one instance the exporter just abandoned the goods, because it was advantageous that way. Yet, at the end of the day, you would still need to get this certificate.
Don’t think of it in a way where you pay charges and get your cargo cleared. If your shipment arrives without Cargo Tracking Note you would face a hefty penalty, and you will gather all the required documents to obtain appropriate certification.
SFR: Why is CTN so important for countries which pursue this? How all the other countries cope without such practice?
Kyle: There are advantages and drawbacks of CTN regulation. Whenever a new government discusses the possibility of implementing a similar requirement, dispute from the opposing side becomes so fierce that calling for a go-ahead becomes more convoluted that setting up the system itself.
The defense side of the argument contends the Cargo Tracking system helps Customs official better manage the ports which are in poor condition. To have the prerequisite data of inflow and outflow of shipments from ports, support port executives in a great deal in managing port traffic, designate stevedoring personnel and allocating necessary unloading equipment so vessels’ vacate the berth as soon as possible.
Bringing CTN certificate into effect has the financial and security benefits to the country as a whole. The security interest is that BSC system provides thorough information about the commodity and all the parties involved in the transportation chain.
Using the same system the authorities of the relevant country can authorize or deny entrance while the goods are still at the loading country. In the way of financial benefit, the BSC system hinders the under-declared goods coming into the country.
It is reported that up to 80% of imports to countries which do not have such requirement are under-declared. Therefore the exporters are avoiding paying necessary tariffs. BSC will increase the revenue of Customs because exporters will be asked to present the true value of the commodity.
SFR: What advice would you give to Exporters on CTN subject?
- Never underestimate the endeavour you need to put in or delay the CTN application, it is too risky. You will not realise how fast the time will go past and how much effort is required. The risk of missing out on the validation period becomes imminent. The possibility of facing a huge penalty charge cannot be eliminated.
- Always work closely with the GetCTN agents, as they have the necessary experience in bringing the CTN certification to successful completion. Trust them, but also keep a close eye on the draft details, so in the end, the validated certificate comes out the way you planned.
- Never rely on the Importer to obtain the BSC certificate. I have encountered many cases where the Exporter is convinced by the buyer that he would prevail the BSC locally with the sole intention of avoiding the cost. In the end, goods get blocked, the shipping line receives a penalty for loading without BSC, which shipper is held liable for.
SFR: What are the exceptions where you don’t issue BSC certificate?
Kyle: This is a big question, it is far from black & white! It is not that we don’t issue BSC. Certain countries permit particular kind of shipments to get cleared without the subject documentation. I would not bet for anyone, who try to give the exact list consisting of BSC exempt goods. We deal with this case by case.
Once Exporter or Freight Forwarder send us a request outlining the details, if the commodity is exempt from BSC certification as per the up to date regulations, we revert accordingly.
SFR: Are there new certificates being added?
Kyle: Yes. Although more and more people question its purpose, BSC certificate is becoming a requirement for additional countries. After lengthy battle among Trade Union and Ghana Revenue Authority, Ghana has permanently implemented CTN requirement from October 2018.
Since Liberia and South Sudan have also put the CTN system into practice for shipments to their respective countries. We are also working with Nigerian Customs Authorities in successfully implementing the Tracking system, which should come into effect in the coming weeks if not days.
Even though the new system comes at an extra cost, the customs authorities believe such regulation is good for all sides in terms of safety of the products being imported and proper Customs tariffs are paid.
SFR: What kind of questions someone planning a shipment to Africa can come to you with?
Kyle: Anyone shipping to Africa can ask me any certification or any challenging, logistics related questions in general, using the details given on our website.
They can also fill in the free CTN consultation form, so I will advise them if they need to revise any details. We have vast experience in transportation and BSC certification field and can provide answers for any situation.