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What RFID Technology Is Used for Shipping and Marine Applications?

Posted By RFID Journal, 05.22.2013

Which companies produce radio frequency identification solutions for use in those industries?

—Name withheld


It really depends on the specific application. Active RFID is used to track vehicles, large assets and containers. In 2005, SSA Marine, one of the world's largest cargo companies, introduced container-tracking technology at several West Coast ports. It chose active RFID technology from a company called WhereNet, which was later purchased by Zebra Technologies. The system utilized readers on cranes offloading containers, as well as active tags on the containers themselves, to better identify the proper container and make sure it was loaded onto the appropriate truck (see SSA Marine Adds RFID to Quicken Cargo).

That same year, PierPASS, a nonprofit company created by 12 marine terminal operators at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports to address such issues as congestion, security and air quality, deployed WhereNet's active RFID system to automate the identification and authentication of the approximately 10,000 drayage trucks serving the terminals daily. Eventually, it required all trucks entering the ports to have RFID transponders.

APL Ltd., one of the largest container-shipping companies in the United States, with a fleet of containerships serving more than 100 markets throughout North America, South America, the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and Africa, offers more than 60 weekly shipping services and makes about 300 calls at more than 90 ports worldwide. To deliver the most efficient level of service to its customers, APL must track the location of every chassis. That can pose a considerable challenge, given the high volume of containers entering and leaving a port on a daily basis. The inability to locate chassis and other assets has plagued many shipping terminals over the years.

To help solve this problem, APL deployed RFID technology at one of its major operations. In May 2005, the company began employing WhereNet's active RFID WhereNet Real-Time Locating System (RTLS) and marine terminal software to help manage its 292-acre Global Gateway South terminal. Located at the Port of Los Angeles, the terminal processes 3,500 to 4,000 containers daily (see APL Reaps Double Benefits From Real-Time Visibility)

For smaller items, passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) technology is being used. For example, Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO), a marine transportation and logistics company, is employing passive UHF RFID technology provided by Mojix to tracks tools, equipment, food and other consumable supplies as they are transported to, and returned from, offshore oil rigs. The system provides a more efficient, reliable delivery of goods to oil drillers in the Gulf of Mexico, while also reducing costs by making the location and status of rented equipment—such as pipes, valves or generators—available in real time. In that way, for example, if a piece of equipment returns from an offshore rig, Edison Chouest Offshore knows about it right away and can return the items before incurring excess charges (see RFID Saves Oil Companies Time and Money).

There are, no doubt, many other applications for which shipping and marine companies could benefit from using RFID.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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