Smart tags bring security to containers entering US

July 1, 2004
In the United States, nearly seven million cargo containers, including tank containers, each year enter the nation's seaports onboard ships from foreign

In the United States, nearly seven million cargo containers, including tank containers, each year enter the nation's seaports onboard ships from foreign ports and countries of origin. The containers are offloaded from the ships and transferred to trucks and trains to be delivered to their final destinations. But as security concerns move to the forefront, how can agencies in charge of security at US ports be assured that containers have not been tampered with or had their security compromised along the way?

Two initiatives designed to ensure safety and integrity of shipments arriving in US ports — the Container Security Initiative (CSI) and the Smart and Secure Trade Lanes Initiative (SST) — are embracing radio frequency identification (RFID) technology as a way to help ensure container security. The X-Change Corp's AirGATE Technologies subsidiary has applied for membership in the SST initiative and looks to become a leader in this RFID segment.

“The Container Security Initiative has been implemented at the top 20 foreign ports that collectively represent approximately two-thirds of the volume of containers to US ports,” said Mike Sheriff, chief executive officer of AirGATE Technologies, a Dallas TX-based RFID technology developer and services provider.

“The governments of those 20 foreign ports, including most recently Thailand and China, have already agreed to implement CSI and SST,” said Sheriff. “Because of our planned RFID implementation work with Vung Tau Commercial Port in Vietnam, we felt it was necessary to begin to lay the groundwork now for customers to be able to comply with these important security initiatives.”

Traditional container seals provide evidence of unauthorized entry only when they are physically inspected, which may not occur until the container arrives at its final destination. RFID tags (sometimes called “smart tags”), offer shippers, freight recipients, and ports handling the containers significant security advantages. Because RFID container seals are made with imbedded micro-transmitters, a great deal of tracking data will be provided to shippers and recipients, including frequently updating information throughout the life of a shipment.

Most importantly, they provide automatic notification of tampering because they go “silent” if a container is tampered with during its journey. Smart tags can also be equipped with sensors to monitor environmental conditions within the container.

Containers with RFID container seals enable shippers and carriers to:

  • Consistently monitor container security and integrity.

  • Speed shipments through the supply chain.

  • Verify that a container was loaded at a secure loading point.

  • Significantly reduce the likelihood a tampering event happening in transit with container accountability from point of origin to destination.

  • Gather enough data to conduct a “virtual inspection” in advance of arrival.

  • Guarantee that shipping containers meet governmental security regulations.

Shipments that satisfy government regulations will:

  • Receive fast track or “green lane” handling through customs at the point of dispatch and/or the point of receipt.

  • Avoid extensive delays in shipment and receipt.

  • Minimize cost of handling.

About the Author

Mary Davis