SMSThe Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Services Enterprises (ESLSE) has installed new software that will enable it to automatically notify customers of the arrival of goods at the dry port, via text message. The software, called CTTS, will automatically send a text message to customers after registering the arrival of the shipments into the ESLSE system.

Ethio-telecom is incharge of providing the service to the Enterprise and the two are hammering out a deal for monthly service fees, in order to launch the programme within the coming few weeks.

This is one of a series of actions the Enterprise has taken to provide cargo tracking information, following complaints from customers about the whereabouts of their shipments. Such complaints were especially rampant after glitches in the Multimodal Transport System (MTS), which the Enterprise fully implemented in February 2011, caused chaos and delays in the delivery of shipments.

The system, which made the Enterprise responsible for the delivery of goods, from the point of origin all the way to an inland dry port within the country, broke down in March, 2012, causing congestion at the Port of Djibouti. In July, 2012, around 22,000 containers were piled up in Djibouti, and the Enterprise only had the capacity to transport 300 of them, daily.

Many customers were unaware of where their goods were, during this time. And, although the Enterprise boosted its capacity and started lifting goods quickly from the Port of Djibouti, the inland ports were, in turn, congested, since customers were not picking up their shipments on time.

One of the reasons, raised by customers of the ESLSE, for the failure to pick shipments up on time, aside from financing, is the lack of awareness about the whereabouts of their shipments.

As a short term solution, the enterprise started to publish the lists of goods that arrived in Djibouti and dry ports in the daily Addis Zemen newspaper and on its official website.

“Still, most of our customers are not used to checking websites, and informing them through their mobile phone will definitely minimise the existing problem”, Getaneh Abat, Director of Modjo Dry Port & Terminal told Fortune.

A general manager of a company who spoke to Fortune anonymously agrees with Getaneh’s comment.

Although it is not the ultimate solution for the existing problems, the new system will help importers by supplying real time information, the manager of the company, which imports paper products from the Middle East, told Fortune.

“The system will also serve as written proof for importers if the shipments are not at the port, which will save us additional costs”, he said.

The Enterprise has been reluctant to penalise those that have not lifted their goods on time, because, in the beginning, when initially implementing the MTS, they, too, were partly responsible.

But now that things are functioning more smoothly, the Ministry of Transport (MoT) is issuing a directive concerning the placement and stay of shipments at dry ports.

The draft directive requires the Enterprise to send several notifications during the stay of the shipments at the dry ports. It also gives customs authorities the right to empty out goods from containers within 30 days of arrival, if the ports are congested, and place them elsewhere.

Credit: Adis Fortune