Cross-border truckers upbeat over electronic cargo tracking system

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A truck carrying goods crosses into Rwanda at Rusumo border from Tanzania. (Courtesy)

Rwandan cross-border truck drivers have expressed optimism that the soon-to-be launched electronic cargo tracking system will not only improve the safety of Rwanda-bound consignments from the east African coast but also avert possible conflicts between drivers and traders.

Issa Mugarura, vice-president of Rwanda Truck Drivers Association (ACPLRWA), who was speaking to The New Times on Tuesday following reports that

Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) is set to commission the Rwanda Electronic Cargo Tracking System (RECTS) this month, said he was confident it would be a game changer.

A similar system was commissioned by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) last week in Kampala. It enables interested parties to receive fulltime and real-time updates on their mobile phones.

 “It is a good system that ensures security of cargo and truck seeing that one will be monitored on the network, wherever they go. You cannot steal. And there is no need for going through many weigh bridges as nothing will be changed or tampered with along the way,” Mugarura said.

The acting Chief Advocacy Officer at Private Sector Federation (PSF), Donatien Mungwarareba, said that in the past “not everyone was allowed” to check and monitor cargo in transit and people were not happy about this.

Mungwarareba said: “Kenyan authorities could monitor but cargo owners could not. Now, our traders will have access to the system and this helps as regards transparency. There will be no room for deceit and, instead of estimating we shall now know the actual time cargo takes to move from Kigali to Mombasa.”

Nearly 90 per cent of the cargo through the Northern Corridor (the Kigali-Kampala-Mombasa route) is transported by road with the risk of cargo being targeted by criminals. Using RECTS also means that all appropriate tax is properly declared.

Robert Mugabe, Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) deputy commissioner for revenue investigation and enforcement, said after Uganda commissioned the RECTS last week, Rwanda will follow suit “in not more than a month’s time from now.”

It could have been done earlier but, Mugabe said, they decided to take time to properly establish other equally important associated projects such as installation of CCTV cameras at all border posts and a number plate recognition system.

“We decided it is better to have everything ready at once as well as be able to involve all stakeholders and make them understand and own it as it doesn’t only benefit RRA,” he said, adding that RECTS will help end situations such as when Rwanda-bound cargo would get lost and couldn’t be traced.

“This time, an exporter or importer will be able to monitor cargo all the way and a driver cannot divert from a route unnoticed or get robbed unawares. There will also be no need for going through several weighbridges as cargo is monitored. Everyone will be confident; be it individual countries’ tax bodies, or owners of cargo,” Mugabe said.

RECTS will provide real time detection of transit violations such as theft and diversions; coordinated responses to alerts by Rapid Response Units (RRUs); and provide regional viewing or access rights by both internal and external stakeholders, thus enhancing transparency.

Easing cross-border trade

Kenya Revenue Authority will commission its own system next week, reports say.

TradeMark East Africa country director Patience Mutesi said the Rwanda Electronic Cargo Tracking System cost $4.5 million and is funded by the UK Department for International Development through TMEA.

Besides governments, the three-year RECTS project being implemented by tax authorities in Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda will, among others, be of assistance to importers, exporters, clearing agents, transporters, traders, manufacturers’ associations, and the public.

RECTS is a web-based integrated system used to monitor transit cargo under Customs control in the three countries.

Shedding more light on the challenges the intervention is responding to, Mutesi said each country operated a national cargo tracking system and this posed challenges that include lack of holistic end to end transit monitoring mechanism leading to cases of dumping, delayed bond cancellation and refund processing.

The national cargo tracking system, she added, is a barrier to international and cross-border trade due to multiple arming, disarming and at times verification at all borders along the corridor; it involves a high cost of cross-border trade in terms of time and money; and is inconsistent with the regional integration agenda of trade facilitation and ease of doing business.

Besides cargo security, another broad objective of the system is regional trade facilitation.

Mutesi said RECTS will facilitate seamless flow of transit cargo and have a single view of cargo tracking along the corridor, eliminate NTBs in order to reduce transit times – as has been case at borders – and reduce the cost of doing business.

How RECTS works

At departure, a customs officer attaches an electronic seal and activates it in the system. Customs checkpoints will have smart gates to scan vehicle details automatically. While in transit, a centralised monitoring centre will take over. There will be three interlinked centralised monitoring centres in Kigali, Nairobi and Kampala to conduct realtime electronic monitoring of goods in transit. In case of any transit violations, system alerts are generated and officials at the centralised monitoring centres would dispatch officers whose role is to respond to alerts for immediate action.

At final destination, the RECTS process is terminated when the customs officer deactivates the electronic seal in the system and removes it from the container or other means of carriage.

Officials say there will be no charges for the service as operational costs will be met by revenue authorities. However, there will be a charge for every electronic seal device lost under the custody of the beneficiary.

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