The thefts were well planned; wait for the truck to get to a hill, open the doors and steal merchandise.
However, the thieves did not know that the trucks were being monitored. No sooner had they tampered with the electronic seals than messages were sent to the central monitoring center (CMC) in Nakawa, Kampala.
The incidents, according to Customs officer, Dunstan Luwaga, occurred last Wednesday and Thursday night.
Whilst on duty, an officer in the CMC Wednesday night received an alert from a truck travelling on the Gulu highway, according to Luwaga. The driver, he said, was told to stop to ascertain what had happened.
“When I walked to the back, the padlock was broken and the seal had been tampered with,” John Muteba the driver of the vehicle carrying merchandise stated.
“I am so glad that the Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTS) helped me save the cargo. I would probably be in jail now.” He was headed to South Sudan.
And on Thursday night, a similar incident happened between Matugga and Bombo on the same highway. Driving sugar to South Sudan, Kambali Kilondelo’s truck was vandalized.
Like Muteba, he was notified and he stopped. He walked to the back of the truck to the sight of 15 bags of sugar scattered on the road. The sugar, which had been grabbed by thieves, was reloaded into the truck.
The truck owner, James Aguret heaped praise on URA for the system, which he said saved the driver’s life and the vehicle.
In both cases, when the vehicles stopped, the thieves, who target slow-moving trucks to steal cargo, fled. URA’s rapid response unit escorted them to the head office in Nakawa.
Were it not for the ECTS, argued Luwaga, the hapless drivers would have noticed after the theft of all the merchandise.
New electronic seals were attached to the trucks at Nakawa before the men embarked on the journey afresh over the weekend.
On May this year, URA launched ECTS. Comprising the CMC and seals attached either in or outside a vehicle, the system enables URA to locate cargo and its state in real-time. They are used for inland and transit cargo.
When a vehicle is parked for a long time without reason or when the seals are tampered with, authorities are notified and action taken accordingly. Before its launch, URA relied on escorting goods physically, a costly and risky method.