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Schenker Pilots RFID to Secure Cargo Shipments

The company intends to create a modular system allowing customers to choose the security level most appropriate to their needs.
By Rhea Wessel
Oct 30, 2006Schenker, the transportation and logistics division of Deutsche Bahn, is testing RFID-tagged containers circulating between the ports of Hamburg and Hong Kong to learn how the technology can help improve the transparency of the supply chain and increase security.

The test on sea freight includes trials of e-seals and container security devices. Schenker, number three in sea freight worldwide, employs 48,000 people.

Hans-Michael Dietmar, Schenker's global product manager for sea freight/FCL (full container load), says the company aims to challenge the assumption that no "one-size fits all" solution exists for container security. The company wants to create a modular system providing freight customers a choice of security levels when booking passage for their containers.

"Sometimes, a container headed from Europe to Asia can hold goods worth hundreds of thousands of dollars," he says, "while on other trade lanes, like the trans-Pacific westbound, lower-value commodities such as scrap metal and waste paper may be shipped. That's why high-tech security solutions cannot be used for every container."

According to Dietmar, the basis of an all-in-one solution should be a device offering a track-and-trace function. Modules for additional security should include devices to monitor such parameters as the temperature and humidity inside a container.

Theft of in-transit freight is on the rise, says the Technology Asset Protection Association (TAPA), of which Schenker is a member. "In some cases, expensive computer devices such as microprocessors have replaced drugs as criminals' 'currency' of choice, since it is not illegal to possess these products," the association says. TAPA was founded to address cargo-theft problems faced by the high-tech industry.

Schenker's trial phase began in mid-August and will include 10 RFID-tagged containers in a so-called "consolidation" trade lane between Hamburg and Hong Kong. All of the containers will be shipped via one of Schenker's preferred carriers. (In a consolidation trade lane, containers are packed with goods from multiple customers.)

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