Securing containers used in the supply chain is of importance for reducing theft or as a means of avoiding counterfeit goods entering the marketplace. Traditional mechanisms for doing so include screening and validating the contents of cargo being shipped and with the use of locks and tamper-proof seals.
Digital container technology
More advanced approaches are using digital technology to help safeguard shipments and containers. To enhance docker security, digital technologies can provide track-and-trace solutions, such as notifying any changes to the cloud and using interfaces that enable each container to be connected to a network, facilitating communication between containers. Docker is an open-source software to help businesses to automate the deployment of applications and which can run on the cloud or on-premises.
To make this mechanism robust, it is important not to exceed resource quotas or to fill up the memory capacity of a system and using software to secure container registries. An additional verification tool is through the use of container images.
As an example of application, and in making good use of such cloud technology in relation to the transport of goods, the Port of Antwerp has announced it is to digitise all container release from 2021.
A common means to track containers is the use of radio frequency identification (RFID), although there are variations in terms of the reliability of the technology. The best way to consider RFID is as an intelligent bar code.
The more robust RFID transponders are designed to enhance container system inventory tracking. The aim is to provide real-time accurate information about every movement of goods throughout the supply.
The technology requires a reader and a tag. An RFID reader transmits an encoded radio signal to interrogate the tag. The tag transponder converts the radio signal into usable power, and responds to the reader. Hence, the RFID tag receives the message and then responds with its identification and other information.
It is also important that the selected RFID tags maintain performance on wood, plastic or metal shipping containers of virtually any shape or size.
The cost of the technology is falling. In October 2020, Internet of Things technology company Talkin’ Things issued an RFID tag priced at between 3 and 4 cents pert ag. The tag is designed for the shipment of consumer goods, food and pharmaceuticals.
The most sophisticated means to track and control shipping containers is through the application of blockchain technology. A blockchain is a series of transactions referred to as “blocks.” Each block contains all of the information and data about one transaction (sometimes referred to as a hash). Captured digitally, the ledger, which cannot be altered, contains the previous block’s hash.
When applied to shipping, blockchain technology can provide a record of the Bill of Lading and a shipment’s transfer history. As an example, if a transport company signs for a shipment, hence accepting the shipment for further transport, this data can be captured electronically and in a way that cannot be altered.
As an example of emerging interest in the technology, Canadian Pacific has announced it has joined the TradeLens blockchain shipping platform. This is an open-API platform designed to assist shippers to create, amend and share documents with other supply chain participants.