ITS InfraRed ID System: a fraction the cost of OCR
ITS InfraRed ID System: a fraction the cost of OCR
SAIC portal: combines gamma-ray imaging with radiation scanning and OCR technology
SAIC portal: combines gamma-ray imaging with radiation scanning and OCR technology

Despite a lack of agreed standards, there's a wide range of technologies available to increase security while enhancing efficiencies in container terminals, writes Benedict Young.

In the run up to the US presidential election, the war on terrorism has become the dominant issue on the campaign trail. In October, the Democrats released an advertising commercial highlighting President Bush's declaration that America can't afford to inspect every container entering the US.

This hot political issue is hardly a new one though. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, a raft of legislation, rules and codes have been initiated to protect the security of US borders. The port security plans mandated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act are expected to require in excess of $7billion, including $1.5billion this year alone, according to the Commandant of the US Coast Guard.

In 2004, the US Department of Homeland Security received requests for nearly $1billion for Port Security Grants, although only $125m was available to distribute. According to the American Association of Ports Authorities (AAPA), a minimum of $400m is necessary just to safeguard the most critical ports in the US. Little wonder then that stakeholders in the transportation system are being strongly encouraged to make major contributions to port and cargo security in the US and elsewhere.

The most recent stakeholder organisation is the Coalition for Secure Ports (CSP) which was launched in September 2004. The CSP is specifically concerned with US security and comprises terminal operators, vessel operators, port associations, shippers and other stakeholders.

Obtaining earlier, better and more precise cargo information is one of the CSP's main objectives and it plans to work closely with government authorities to enhance the security of containers in transit. Its other goal is the implementation of a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) to ensure that the identity of individuals with access to cargo can be verified reliably and expediently.

Another stakeholder organisation formed to address port and terminal security is the Strategic Council for Security Technology (SCST).

SCST is behind the Smart and Secure Trade Lanes Initiative (SST), an international industry-driven, supply chain security initiative focusing on deploying end-to-end, supply chain security solutions from point of origin to point of delivery. As well as secure business practices, it is promoting advanced technologies and now has over 65 partners including terminal operators, carriers, service providers and shippers.


What then of the technology that can help secure borders and entry points? Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags have been criticised by some as expensive to use, to own, to verify, to get back and to audit. Despite this, RFID devices have been deployed by Hutchison Port Holdings, PSA Corp and P&O Ports as part of the SST initiative.

Savi Technology is the primary solution provider for SST. A study by BearingPoint Inc. , one of the world's largest business consulting and systems integration firms, has found that using RFID sensors to improve cargo security resulted in dramatic savings for importers.

Battery powered RFID devices, such as the Savi Sentinel, receive and transmit data about shipments and their contents to fixed and mobile readers, which in turn automatically relay the information within a highly secure communications environment to a global network platform.

As well as RFID devices, there is a wide range of other technologies available to safeguard containerised cargo but few agreed standards.

Some common security enhancements at container terminals include:

optical character recognition (OCR) at terminal gates, narcotics and explosive detection systems, and x-ray scanning systems.

US based SAIC reports that it is receiving a steady stream of orders for its security inspection systems from ports and terminals around the world. SAIC's latest offering is its Integrated Container Inspection System (ICIS) which combines gamma-ray imaging with radiation scanning and OCR technology. This integrated package is designed to enhance security at terminal gates, quays, railways and other checkpoint locations without impeding traffic productivity.

Despite the relatively high cost of equipment, X-ray and gammaray systems are becoming a popular means of container security inspection as they are non-intrusive and can be integrated into the container handling cycle - most commonly at terminal gates.

SAIC's VACIS gamma-ray systems are available in various forms including: a mobile truck mounted version; a relocatable version for detailed inspection of large vehicles; a railroad car system; a portal system for high traffic volumes; and a version for inspecting palletised goods.

Noell Crane Systems is developing an x-ray/gamma-ray device integrated into a quay crane. Dubbed The Watchdog, this innovative system would be capable of inspecting containers during the vessel loading/unloading process.

Different versions of the system under consideration by Noell include: one frame-like trolley with inspection unit plus one lifting trolley;

intermediate platform with two inspection units plus one lifting trolley;

intermediate platform with one inspection unit plus two lifting trolleys;

one trolley with liftable inspection hood plus one lifting trolley.

Noell claims that its system would require only limited additional time, organisation and resource requirements for container inspections. However, it may be some time before the viability of this concept can be properly assessed.

Embarcadero Systems Corporation (ESC) claims that its Intelligent Camera technology is a highly effective way to optimise terminal security and efficiency at the gate, where the burden and complexity of scheduling, security, and logistics surround the transfer of containers.

For high-volume terminal operators, ESC says that Intelligent Camera increases the accuracy of existing OCR portals while lower-volume terminal operators can also use it as a data collection solution.

OCR technology is fast becoming accepted as an option for terminals needing to update their security technology. Tideworks Technology believe that OCR offers enhanced efficiency and greater productivity for the terminal operator at the gates. The company has teamed up with Camco Technologies to provide OCR solutions to marine terminals.

Cameras housed within an OCR portal capture digital images of container, chassis and tractor license. The captured information automatically populates gate transaction forms within the Mainsail Terminal Management System. This streamlines data entry as well as increasing data accuracy and reliability.

EXPEDIENT RETURN ON INVESTMENT The two companies claim that using Tideworks' advanced integration software along with the Camco's OCR system provides an expedient return on investment for customers. They have recently implemented their OCR system at Pier A in Long Beach and expect more terminals to follow.

Whereas OCR systems read licence plates and numbers on containers, UK based International Terminal Systems Ltd (ITS) has recently developed an identification system based on infrared technology.

Richard Lambert md of ITS says: "The system was born out of an idea from APM Terminals and developed by us to provide 100% yard accuracy at their transhipment terminal in Algeciras."

Despite planning for optimal yard density and use of equipment, it is inevitable that some containers are not placed in the planned locations. Algeciras could already identify such errors with its existing ITS Position Determination System but the goal was to ensure actual containers were automatically identified and positively placed in the correct yard locations.

In order to ensure the actual yard operation follows the plan, ITS developed its InfraRed ID System. Infrared transmitters are fitted on trucks and receivers on container handling equipment - RTGs in the case of APMT Algeciras. Trucks therefore automatically identify themselves when approaching the handling equipment without the need for operator input.

From a database of moves, the system can determine which containers are being carried by which truck and in which positions.

The system is configured to warn the handling equipment operator if the move is not correct. If he continues to attempt to execute this move, or place the container in the wrong position, the system will identify this and has been set to lockout twistlock operation preventing the invalid move being executed.

As well as monitoring the position and location of each container, the ITS system - which is linked to the Navis SPARCS terminal planning system - also provides time and date stamps and offers a full audit trail.

ITS believes that using a system based on passive infrared provides a balance of reliability and cost effectiveness. "In relation to OCR, our system is a fraction of the cost. The module will probably add no more than 5% to the cost of a position determination system such as a GPS system, " comments Lambert.

Although there is a wide choice of security technologies available, the good news is that many technology modules can be integrated with clever software solutions. For operations that can afford it, a belt and braces approach can be taken but even smaller terminals have a wide variety of options available and there is no shortage of advice being offered in today's marketplace.


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