Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tracking The Elusive Shipping Container

Date:
August 29, 2007
Source:
US Department of Homeland Security
Summary:
The world is a different place out beyond the horizon, where thousands of cargo ships ply the world's oceans, pulling into ports, loading, unloading, changing crews and cargos. It can be an amazingly trackless story. How do these ships come by and load their cargos, by what polyglot seamen, and in what untamed ports? Along the journey, pry open a container and what will you find? If you're not sure, that spells danger.

The world is a very different place out beyond the horizon. Even as you read this, there are some 40,000 large cargo ships plying the world's waterways and oceans, not to mention innumerable smaller merchant craft, all pulling in and out of ports, loading, unloading, changing out crews and cargos, and steaming from one location to the next.

Related Articles


In what can be a very murky world of shadowy ship registry offices, lengthy manifests, and dockhands who change out faster than Barbosa's crew, how all these ships come by their cargo, how that cargo is loaded, by what polyglot seamen and in what untamed ports, can be an amazingly scrambled and trackless story rivaling the Pirates of the Caribbean.

Scenario: A single ship starts out in Singapore with containers filled with electronics, passes through Indonesia where it picks up spices, sails to Calcutta to load cotton, Port Said where it boards an Egyptian crew, Piraeus where it stops for fuel, Tangier where it picks up leathers, Scotland where it packs in woolen sweaters, and finally sets sail for Newark, New Jersey. Eleven million containers packed with such goods reach U.S. ports every year.

At any point in a merchant ship's journey, pry open container XYZ mid-ocean, and what might you find? When you can't be sure, that spells danger. The possibility that a single container has gone purposefully astray and might now be packed with explosives, or loaded with a virulent biologic destined for our shores, is not a fictional scenario. (In 1988, it was an Al Qaeda merchant ship that delivered the materials needed to bomb U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. That same ship was never seen again.)

Given lots of time, customs agents could find all contraband. But, in the world of maritime shipping, time is the enemy. Try delaying a delivery, and you may face some rough characters down at the docks (think On the Waterfront). What's more, anything that hinders the swift transit of goods around the world can have a rippling effect on the world's economy.

MATTS -- DHS S&T's Marine Asset Tag Tracking System -- is a miniature sensor, data logging computer, radio transceiver, and GPS tracking system integrated into a compact and inexpensive black box, about the size of a deck of cards. Affixed to a shipping container, MATTS can use its on-board GPS chip to estimate its location if the GPS signal is lost. And, in the final version of the system, containers outfitted with MATTS tags will be able to transmit through shipboard communications systems, even if they are placed deep below deck. The tag's signal will "jump" from container to container until it finds a path it can use. Better yet, this black box stores its location history and reports it back when in range (up to 1 km) of an Internet equipped ship, container terminal, or a cell phone tower. At any point in a container's journey, its history can be examined, and if anything has gone amiss, authorities know instantly to scrutinize that particular container.

Ultimately, MATTS will be integrated with S&T's Advanced Container Security Device. The ACSD sends an alert through MATTS when a container has been opened or tampered with on any side, providing even more security.

"MATTS will globally communicate in-transit alerts to Customs and Border Protection, and this capability satisfies a high-priority CBP requirement," says Bob Knetl, Program Manager for the MATTS research within S&T's Borders and Maritime Division.

In late April 2007, one hundred MATTS-equipped containers started out in the Port of Yokohama, Japan, and are now making their trans-Pacific crossing to the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach, where they will then continue by rail to the Rochelle, Illinois, Rail Terminal and be unloaded and trucked to their final destination. This test, ending in August, will demonstrate that the communications can be used internationally (in this case, by Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation) and that transitioning to domestic drayage once portside in Long Beach also runs smoothly.

MATTS was developed under a DHS S&T Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract by iControl Incorporated, a small Santa Clara, CA-based company.

"A serious threat is posed by the cargo that containers may hold," says Vinny Schaper, SBIR Program manager. "We have to view the ocean with grave concern, and realize that a maritime attack is not beyond the realm of possibility and if it comes, it will probably involve the use of merchant ships. Eleven million containers a year are brought onto our docks. Interrupt this with a terrorist attack, and the backup would reach around the world."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by US Department of Homeland Security. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

US Department of Homeland Security. "Tracking The Elusive Shipping Container." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 August 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070824095812.htm>.
US Department of Homeland Security. (2007, August 29). Tracking The Elusive Shipping Container. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070824095812.htm
US Department of Homeland Security. "Tracking The Elusive Shipping Container." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070824095812.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) Toyota presented its hydrogen fuel-cell compact car called "Mirai" to US consumers at the Los Angeles auto show. The car should go on sale in 2015 for around $60.000. It combines stored hydrogen with oxygen to generate its own power. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) In a blog post, Google said its balloons have traveled 3 million kilometers since the start of Project Loon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Paralyzed Marine Walks With Robotic Braces

Raw: Paralyzed Marine Walks With Robotic Braces

AP (Nov. 21, 2014) Marine Corps officials say a special operations officer left paralyzed by a sniper's bullet in Afghanistan walked using robotic leg braces in a ceremony to award him a Bronze Star. (Nov. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
British 'Bio-Bus' Is Powered By Human Waste

British 'Bio-Bus' Is Powered By Human Waste

Buzz60 (Nov. 21, 2014) British company GENeco debuted what its calling the Bio-Bus, a bus fueled entirely by biomethane gas produced from food scraps and sewage. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins