A South African RFID/GPS cross-border logistics and customs solution

July 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

Inefficiency of road freight transport is one of the primary factors that hamper the economy of sub-Saharan Africa. Long delays experienced at border posts are the single biggest contributor towards the slow average movement of freight. Cross-border operations are complicated by the conflicting security objectives of customs and border authorities versus efficiency objectives of transport operators. It furthermore suffers from illegal practices involving truck drivers and border officials. In theory the efficiency of cross-border operations can be improved based on the availability of more accurate and complete information – the latter will be possible if different stakeholders can exchange data between currently isolated systems.

Cross-border trade basically comprises 3 distinct but interlinked layers –

An information layer – in which various trade documentation (purchase order, invoice), cargo and conveyance information (packing list, manifest), customs and government regulatory data (declaration, permits) are exchanged between various supply chain entities and the customs authority. These primarily attest to the legal ownership, contract of carriage, reporting and compliance with customs and other regulatory authority formalities (export and import), and delivery at destination.

A logistics layer – for the collection, consolidation, sealing and conveyance of physical cargo from point of despatch via at least two customs control points (export and import), to deconsolidation and delivery at point of destination.

A financial layer – which refers to the monetary exchange flow from buyer (importer) to seller (exporter) according to the terms and conditions of the sale (INCOTERMS). Hmm… no, this does not include ‘bribe’ money.

All three layers are inter-linked and prone to risk at any point of a given transaction. There is also no silver bullet solution to secure supply chains. Moreover, it is a fallacy that Customs and Border Agencies will ever conquer cross-border crime – simply because there are too many angles to monitor. Furthermore, in order to set up cross—border information exchange and joint enforcement operations it is both legally and politically time-consuming. Criminal elements are not hampered by these ‘institutions’, they simply spot the gaps and forge ahead.

One of the areas requiring customs attention is that of chain of custody. In short this implies the formal adoption of the World Customs Organisation’s SAFE Framework principles. Each party with data that needs to be filed with the government for Customs and security screening purposes has responsibilities. Those responsibilities include –

  • Protecting the physical goods from tampering, theft, and damage.
  • Providing appropriate information to government authorities in a timely and accurate manner for security screening purposes.
  • Protecting the information related to the goods from tampering and unauthorized access. This responsibility applies equally to times before, during and after having custody of the goods.

Tenacent RFID Tag

Tenacent RFID Tag

Security seals are an integral part of the chain of custody. The proper grade and application of the security seal is addressed below. Security seals should be inspected by the receiving party at each change of custody for a cargo-laden container. Inspecting a seal requires visual check for signs of tampering, comparison of the seal’s identification number with the cargo documentation, and noting the inspection in the appropriate documentation. More recently the emergence of certain e-seals and container security devices (CSDs) contribute even further to minimizing the amount of ‘physical’ verification required, as they are able to electronically notify the owner of the goods or government authority in the event of an incidence of tampering.

White Paper - GPS-RFID systems for cross-border management of freight consignments

White Paper – GPS-RFID systems for cross-border management of freight consignments

A group of South African specialist engineers have been working closely with transport authorities, logistics specialists, defense experts and customs authorities across the globe. Their e-seal is patented in no less than 16 high volume countries. It is produced in Singapore, China and Indonesia depending on politics, free-trade agreements and demand. May move some to Brazil and US in time. Proof of concept (POC) initiatives are currently underway in Brazil for rail cargo, US Marine Corps for their p-RFID program and other Department of Defense divisions in the USA, and will shortly be included in one of the GSA agreements making it available to any government department in the US. Further adrift, the e-seal is also currently enjoying interest in Guatemala, Mexico, Canada, Panama, Jordan, Italy, Spain, and Malaysia. Here, in South Africa, a POC was conducted at the 1st autogate at Durban Container Terminal, funded by the North West University, and overseen with successfully achieved objectives by Transnet Port Terminals. For technical details of the RFID seal, click here!

With much anticipated success abroad, how much support will this product attain in the local and sub-Saharan African scene? Government authorities, as well as logistics and supply chain operators are therefore encouraged to study the enclosed ‘white paper’ – Click Here!. It firstly quantifies the size of the problem and estimates the potential economic benefits that will be created by improved cross-border operations. It then proposes a combined GPS/RFID system that can provide the required level of visibility to support improved operational management, resulting in a simultaneous increase in the security and efficiency of cross-border freight operations. A brief cost-benefits analysis is performed to show that the expected benefits from such a system will by far exceed the costs of implementation. Source: Tenacent & iPico

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