By Godwin Oritse
Government officials, Â operators and proponents of theÂ controversial Cargo Tracking Note Â Â Â (CTN), were shocked to their marrows last week upon the discovery that the equally controversial toxic container on board MV Maersk NashvilleÂ actually came with the much-touted CTN number.
The discovery was said to have created strong doubts evenÂ in the minds of those who have vigorously defended CTN since its introduction on January 11, 2010. The development has clearly shown that the entire CTN project could be a fraud being perpetrated by a private consulting firm with the help of some officials of government.
Although, the container has since been sent back to the shipper aboard the same vessel which brought it to Nigeria on Friday, April 16, 2010, the effect of the shocking discovery has largely thrown spanners in the works andÂ largely punctured one of the arguments of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and its consultants on the CTN, Messrs TPMS Antaser.
Since the story of theÂ introduction of the controversial levy broke,Â many stakeholders who initially kicked against it, have been wooed into accepting it.
It was, however, gathered last week that a meeting that was conveyed by the Minister of Transport,Â Alhaji Suleiman Yusuf to once again examine the pros and cons of CTN was shocked when it was uncovered that the toxic container with number UESU4635950 and which had Safmarine Bill of Lading number 7101406626 was actually issued a CTN at the port of loading in Netherlands.
Financial VanguardÂ learnt that the CTNÂ number that was issued to the container which brought in the toxic materials and which were recorded as disused motor batteries, spare parts and refrigerators is 10/NL/0162.
Our correspondent was told that the ministerial meetingÂ which was presided over by the director of maritime services (who represented the minister) took place on Monday, AprilÂ 19, 2010 in Lagos.
It was attended by Nigerian Ports Authority, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, ShippingÂ Association of Nigeria, Lagos Chamber of Commerce andÂ Industry, National Association of Chambers of CommerceÂ Industry Mines and Agriculture as well as the NationalÂ Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders which went to defend the CTN.
On the strength of the discovery, the director was said to have expressed shock that the container actually had a CTNÂ and also that collection of the levy has actually commenced,Â even though government was yet to give a final verdict onÂ it.
Speaking toÂ Financial Vanguard on the purported collection of the CTN levy by both NPA and the consulting firm, the Director of Maritime Services at the Ministry of Transport,Â Mr Nagogo Suleiman said that he could not comment on the issue excerpt the minister says so
The ministerâ€™s representative was also reportedly shocked when he was shown a copy of a letter that was purportedly written jointly by NPA and TPMS Nigeria Limited to importers to the effect that CTN is â€œirreversibleâ€ and thatÂ importers who do not comply would be dealt with at the point of discharge of their cargo.
A copy of the letter which was dated March 25, 2010 andÂ which was sighted by our correspondent reads in part: â€œAllÂ bills of lading, cargo manifests presented by the shippingÂ managers must bear the corresponding CTN numbers.
One of theÂ main targets of the CTN is to provide authorities with advanced information on cargoes for statistics and securityÂ reasons (ISPS), accordingly all shipping requested to make sure that all cargo manifests and Bill of ladingÂ should bear CTN number in order to avoid penalties
at the discharging portsâ€.
â€œAll shipping lines not adhering to above will subject to fines from N.P.A and receivers will face customs penaltiesâ€, the letter had threatened.
It was also learnt that contrary to theÂ assurances from operators of CTN that it does not attractÂ addition levy, importers now pay between $325 and $425 perÂ 20_ foot container as compulsory CTN levy.
For instance, such containers coming from China and USA attract $425 per 20_ foot container, while the ones coming from United ArabÂ Emirate and India pay $325 and $340 respectively.
A member of Shipping Association of Nigeria (SAN): the umbrella body of foreign shipping lines operating in Nigeria also told our correspondent last week that contrary to theÂ Â claim that its members had been collecting levies akin to CTN, it has since come out to deny the claim. â€œWe came out publicly on February 8th to deny it because it is not true,Â we donâ€™t collect such moneyâ€, he claimed.
As at the time of this report the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry Mines and Agriculture ()NACIMMA) is still vehemently opposed to the introduction of the CTN levy.
It will be recalled that the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Malam Abdusalam Mohammed had said that the introduction of the levy will not attract any additional cost neither will it bring about any bureaucratic process.