cargo tracking note

What is a Cargo Tracking Note (CTN)?

Importing cargo can be quite a complex task, especially when it comes to understanding regulatory requirements. There are various types of import documents that are required, depending on the destination region or country. One of these regions is Africa, as inbound shipments require a Cargo Tracking Note. 

A Cargo Tracking Note (CTN), also known as a Waiver Certificate, is a mandatory shipping document for importing cargo to 25 African countries. The Cargo Tracking Note is designed to provide local custom authorities with the required information and visibility about the import shipment. 

Here’s an overview of the African countries where a CTN/ECTN or an equivalent document is required:

In this article, we will take an in-depth look into the importance of a cargo tracking note, explore relevant information and highlight the requirements, as well as guide you through the application process. 

Why is the Cargo Tracking Note an Important Document?

The main purpose of the Cargo Tracking Note is to provide local custom authorities with all information related to the shipment. This allows them to track each incoming shipment and ensures that the import documentation is filed accordingly. 

Custom officials will be able to not only track these incoming shipments at any given time but it also provides them valuable information on the cargo type, exporter, importer and value of the goods. 

Moreover, the CTN also ensures that the imported items are not restricted and that the appropriate duties and taxes are paid. The cargo tracking note is also known as the electronic cargo tracking note (ECTN) or in French as Bordereau de Suivi de Cargaison (BSC). There are also other names which the CTN goes by, which we will get into a little later.

Failing to submit a CTN accurately and timely usually results in shipment delays and fines. Lastly, the information collected from these tracking notes are also used for statistics and trade analytics. 

What are the Requirements to Apply for a Cargo Tracking Note?

In order to apply for a cargo tracking note, your agent will request you to fill out a submission form that contains all of the relevant shipment information. In addition that, the following documents are required for processing the application:

  1. Bill of Lading 
  2. Commercial Invoice
  3. Freight Invoice (if applicable)

You only need to present a freight invoice if you have an unrated bill of lading and the freight value is not found on the commercial invoice. If the freight value is visible on either of these documents, a separate freight invoice is generally not required. 

You should also take note that there may be other documents required, depending on the country you are importing goods into. These documents can vary and may be the following:

  • Documento Unico (if applicable)
  • Certificate of Insurance (if applicable)
  • Export Declaration (if applicable)
  • Certificate of Origin (if applicable)
  • Packing List (if applicable)

Generally speaking, it’s best to get in touch with a freight forwarder or an agent to find out what the exact documents are required. This is important because  each country may have a unique set of requirements and regulations may change over time. 

Cargo Tracking Note Application Process

CTN applications can be processed once the goods have been shipped. As you’ll need the commercial invoice and bill of lading, you can do so once the goods have been confirmed as shipped on board. 

Take note that some CTN applications will require the CTN number on the Bill of Lading, which means that you’ll need to submit the application in advance.

However, for most countries, it’s important to secure the cargo tracking note several days before the arrival of the vessel at the port of discharge. Therefore, it’s best to get in touch with an agent, while the shipment is still in the planning phase. 

The application process is straightforward when working with an agent – a guide can be found below:

  1. Identify an Agent – The cargo owner or importer is responsible for ensuring that the cargo tracking note has been filed (depending on the freight terms). Firstly, identify an agent to work with and ensure that they have the required experience. 
  1. Send Required Documents – The agent should advise you in advance what documents are required (besides the bill of lading and the commercial invoice). They will do this based on the country the goods are being shipped to.
  1. Agent Sends Draft – The agent will fill out the required forms based on the documents that were provided and send over a draft for confirmation. 
  1. Shipper Reviews and Confirms Draft– The cargo owner is required to check and confirm the CTN forms. This is one of the most important steps, as misrepresented or incorrect submissions can result in fines and delays. 
  1. Retrieve the CTN – The last step entails securing the confirmed CTN and coordination with the consignee to ensure documents are received for customs clearance purposes. Some countries will require the bill of lading to mention the CTN number.

Take note that most agents work on a prepaid basis, meaning that payment for the CTN application services is requested before the application process starts. It’s important to factor these costs in during the shipment planning stage.

For What Mode of Transport is a CTN Required?

Cargo tracking notes are mandatory for all sea freight shipments. Certain African countries also require a CTN for shipments arriving via airfreight and cross-boarding trucking. 

For example, Madagascar requires BSC for airfreight shipments. When importing to the Democratic Republic of Congo, shipments via road require a FERI document, which is a type of CTN.

For What Cargo Type is a CTN Required?

All cargo types arriving by sea are subject to a cargo tracking note application. Sea freight modes include Roll-on/roll-off (RORO), less-than-container load (LCL), full container load (FCL) and break bulk shipments, which all require a valid CTN. 

Shipments that are consigned to charities, government institutions or certain non-governmental organizations (NGO) may be exempt from requiring a CTN. To be sure, it is recommended to inquire these details with the local authorities at the destination or directly with an agent or freight forwarder.

What Happens When a CTN is Not Submitted?

Failure to submit a CTN typically results in shipment delays and/or fines. Multiple offences may also get the cargo owner blacklisted. Take note that these penalties are subject to the discretion of the destination country. 

  • Shipment Delays – Cargo may get stuck at the port of discharge, as the cargo may not be able to get customs cleared in time. This may also add to container demurrage and port storage charges.
  • Monetary Fines – Some countries may also issue costly fines for not having submitted a Cargo Tracking Note. Fines vary between countries and are usually a multiple of the CTN fee.  
  • Shipment Rollover – Certain carriers may not even load your cargo if you don’t meet the CTN requirements of the importing country. Therefore, work to address the requirements with a freight forwarder or agent ahead of time.

List of Countries That Require an CTN/ECTN.

Depending on the import country, CTN requirements may differ. Here are a list of all African countries that require a form of the CTN document:

Angola CTN Information

A cargo tracking note is required for shipment going to Angola. The Angola CTN is called Conselho Nacional de Carregadores (CNCA) and was made mandatory on 28th January 1994.

  • Ports: Lobito, Luanda, Namibe, Porto Amboim, Soyo

Benin CTN Information

A cargo tracking note is required for cargo imported into Benin. The Benin CTN is called Bordereau Électronique de Suivi de Cargaisons (BESC) and was put into law on 28th December 2006.

  • Ports: Cotonou

Burkina Faso CTN Information

The Burkina Faso Shipper’s Council declared that an Electronic Cargo Tracking Note (ECTN) is required for all sea imports and has been put into effect since 2001. 

  • Ports: Bobo Dioulasso, Ouagadougou

Burundi CTN Information

All shipments to Burundi require an Electronic Cargo Tracking Note (ECTN). This requirement was put into law by the Burundi Ministry of Finance on 1st April 2014.

  • Ports: Bujumbura

Cameroon CTN Information

With effect from 11th July 2006, The National Port Authority in Cameroon made the CTN, also called the Bordereau Électronique de Suivi de Cargaisons (BESC) mandatory for all sea shipments. 

  • Ports: Douala

Central African Republic

The CTN for the Central African Republic is referred to as an Electronic Cargo Tracking Note (ECTN). This requirement was put into law by C.A.R’s Ministry of Finances and Budget for all import sea shipments. 

  • Ports: Banqui

Chad CTN Information

Shipments arriving in Chad would need to have a valid Electronic Cargo Tracking Note (ECTN). This requirement came into effect on 1st April 2013 and is mandatory for all sea shipments.

  • Ports: N’Djamena

D. R. Congo CTN Information

The CTN in the Democratic Republic of Congo is called Fiche Électronique des Renseignements à l’Importation (FERI) and was put into effect by decree numbered 011/18 on 11th April 2011. 

  • Ports: Matadi, Boma, Banana

Egypt CTN Information

Egypt requires import sea shipments to be accompanied by an Advanced Cargo Information Declaration (ACID), which is a type of CTN. This cargo tracking note became an official requirement on 1st April 2021.

  • Ports: Alexandria, Damietta, Said, Suez, Safaga

Equatorial Guinea CTN Information

Shipments via sea that are discharged at any ports in Equatorial Guinea require an Electronic Cargo Tracking Note (ECTN). This requirement has been put into effect in 2013.

  • Ports: Bata, Malambo, Luba, Punta Europa Terminal

Gabon CTN Information

The CTN in Gabon is called Bordereau d’Identification Électronique de Traçabilité des Cargaisons (BIETC) and is effective since 1st of January 2010, by the Gabonese Shipper’s Council.

  • Ports: Libreville, Owendo, Port Gentil

Ghana CTN Information

Ghana requires all shipments entering the country via sea to be accompanied by a Cargo Tracking Note (CTN). This came into effect on 1st March 2015 by decree of the Ghana Shippers Authority.

  • Ports: Accra, Takoradi, Tema

Guinea Bissau CTN Information

The CTN for Guinea Bissau is referred to as a Certificado Electrónico de Embarque (CEE) and is a mandatory document for all import sea shipments since 2011.

  • Ports: Bissau

Guinea Conakry CTN Information

An Electronic Cargo Tracking Note (ECTN) is required for all sea shipments to Guinea Conakry. This rule was made effective from 19th December 2011, by Guinea Conakry Custom.

  • Ports: Conakry

Ivory Coast CTN Information

The Ivory Coast CTN is called the Bordereau de Suivi de Cargaisons (BSC) and is a requirement for all import shipments that arrive via sea ports. This requirement was made mandatory by the Office Ivoirien Des Chargeurs (OIC) on 1st May 2005.

  • Ports: Abidjan, San Pedro

Liberia CTN Information

Effective from 1st January 2019, all shipments imported into Liberia require a Cargo Tracking Note (CTN). This also applies for cargo that is shipped through Liberia and has been put into effect by the National Port Authority (NPA).

  • Ports: Monrovia

Libya CTN Information

An Electronic Cargo Tracking Note (ECTN) is required for all shipments discharged at sea ports since 2015 in Libya. This regulation was put into effect by the Libyan Customs Administration and Ministry of Finance.

  • Ports: Benghazi, Es Sider, Khoms, Misurata, Sirt, Tobruk, Tolmeith, Tripoli 

Madagascar CTN Information

Shipments that are imported into Madagascar require a Bordereau de Suivi de Cargaisons (BSC), which is a type of CTN. This rule has been made effective as of 24th March 2007 by the Madagascar Customs Administration for all sea and air shipments. 

  • Ports: Antananarivo, Antsiranana, Ehoala, Mahajanga, Toamasina, Toliara

Mali CTN Information

The CTN for Mali is called a Bordereau de Suivi de Cargaisons (BSC) and was declared mandatory by the Shipper’s Council for all import shipments that arrive at any sea port in Mali. 

  • Ports: Bamako

Niger CTN Information

The Niger Port Authority and the Customs and Excise Department made it mandatory for all shipments arriving by sea to have a valid Bordereau de Suivi de Cargaisons (BSC), which is a type of CTN. 

  • Ports: Niamey

Republic of Congo CTN Information

Under the directive 557/CCC/DG by the Ministère de l’Economie, des Finances et du Budget all sea shipments to the Republic of Congo require an Electronic Cargo Tracking Note (ECTN), effective since 10th January 2004.

  • Ports: Pointe Noire, Yombo

Senegal CTN Information

The Shipper’s Council in Senegal declared by decree that a CTN, also known as the Bordereau de Suivi de Cargaisons (BSC) in Senegal, is mandatory for all import sea shipments. This came into effect in 2008. 

  • Ports: Dakar, Kaolack, Lydiane, Ziguinchor

Sierra Leone CTN Information

The CTN is referred to as an Entry Summary (ENS) in Sierra Leone and is mandatory for all shipments entering the country by sea. This ruling was declared mandatory in 2002 by the Sierra Leone Ports Authority.

  • Ports: Freetown

South Sudan CTN Information

All shipments entering any port in South Sudan are required to have a valid Electronic Cargo Tracking Note (ECTN). This was made mandatory by the local customs authority on 1st April 2019.

  • Ports: Djoeba

Togo CTN Information

Shipments that are imported into Togo require an Electronic Cargo Tracking Note (ECTN). This rule has been made effective as of 9th May 2000 by the Conseil National de Chargeurs Togolais (CNCT). 

  • Ports: Lome