100% Scanning – Have all the Options been considered?

Port of Oakland - VertiTainer's  crane mounted scanner solution employs advanced passive scanning technology and sophisticated identification algorithms to detect and identify gamma and neutron sources in shipping containers as they are loaded or discharged from a container ship.

Port of Oakland – VertiTainer’s crane mounted scanner solution employs advanced passive scanning technology and sophisticated identification algorithms to detect and identify gamma and neutron sources in shipping containers as they are loaded or discharged from a container ship.

While the question of mandatory weighing of containers features high on the International Maritime Organisations’ (IMO) list of priorities, a recent post “Container Weighing – industry solution on the horizon“, reminded me of a solution which has been around for some time now, but for various reasons would appear to have been overlooked by authorities – or so it would appear. Readers and followers of this blog may well already have viewed the feature on VeriTainer’s gantry crane mounted radiation detection and identification system, called the VeriSpreader® – refer to the New generation NII technology page of this Blog.

The spreader is a device used for lifting containers and unitized cargo. The spreader used for containers has a locking mechanism at each corner that attaches the four corners of the container. A spreader can be used on a container crane, a straddle carrier and with any other machinery to lift containers. (Wikipedia)

The recent maritime disaster involving the breaking-in-half, and eventual sinking of the MOL Comfort gave rise to the question of overloaded container boxes. While government and international security-minded organisations have pursued methods to address breaches in the supply chain, it would seem that little ‘innovation’ has been applied to the problem – specifically in regard to minimizing the time and cost of routing containers via purpose-built inspection facilities.

At least three known radiation incidents have hit the headlines in recent times – namely Port of Genoa (2010), Port Elizabeth, New Jersey (Feb, 2013), and the most recent in the Port of Voltri (July, 2013). Each of these incidents warranted an emergency response from authorities with a consequential impact on Port Operations.  Unfortunately, advanced risk management systems and other security safeguards did not alert suspicion, allowing these ‘threats’ into the heart of the port, not to mention the radiation threat to port workers?

It could be argued that since the inception of government-led supply chain security, 2002 onwards, many of the world’s supply chains have built in ‘possible inspection’ into their export lead times. A trip to a purpose-built inspection facility will normally require diverting transport from its predestined journey to a land border crossing or seaport. Moreover, lack of predictability often causes delays with possible loss of business where ‘security’ measures delay the movement of cargo.

Several Customs and Border authorities have instituted ‘export-led’ compliance programmes which seek to create better regulatory awareness and expectation for shippers. While not without merit, these still impose an inherent cost to trade where in some instances, shipper’s are compelled to institute ISO-type security standards which for some require dedicated and skilled experts to entrench and maintain these throughout the organisation. So, while the development of increasing levels of compliance amongst supply chain operators will occur over time, what of government ‘Non-Intrusive’ inspection capability?

Port Technology International‘s Feb 2013 article – Future X-Ray Inspection Equipment to be based on Industry Standards – opined that “future developments in cargo screening are likely to follow a common innovation trajectory that is fostered by market needs and new technology, while being strengthened by existing intellectual property and evolving industry standards. Innovation is often perceived as a circular path beginning with customer needs that are identified by a technology developer. The developer then creates application technology in the form of products to meet those needs”.

Land and rail-based cargo screening technology has improved immensely over the last 10 years with improved safety (shielding), throughput (speed) and portability. Engineers have likewise realized the need to ‘fuse’ imaging and radiation threat detection technologies, all offering a more cost-effective package to the end-user. These are by and large the Customs and Border authorities worldwide who protect our territorial waters and ports. Yet, the approach remains ‘modality driven’ which has ensured a period of predictability for designers and manufacturers, not to mention their revenue streams. Given the container weighing – port radiation threats discussed earlier, perhaps it is time now for transport and enforcement authorities to consider technologies as developed by VeriTainer and Lasstec and define a specification for “100%” needs – could this be uniform? Not unlike Lasstec’s container-weighing solution that allows the weighing of containers during the loading cycle so not to disrupt the work flow, Veritainer’s VeriRAD solution uses a gantry crane ‘spreader’ to house its unique solution with specific emphasis to mitigate the threat of a ‘dirty bomb’.



Finding the best solution for 100% container weight verification

Bromma load verification sensing technology (www.bromma.com)

Bromma load verification sensing technology (www.bromma.com)

The International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH) has helped the container handling industry to put focused attention on the issue of container weight verification. The IAPH and the International Shipping Organization have called for near 100 per cent container weight verification as a standard industry ‘best practice’. IAPH has recognised the value of container weight verification for both safety and operational reasons. Accurate container weights can help guide critical plans regarding stowage, and verifiable load data also serves to ensure worker safety. Lifting containers within an acceptable weight range also prevents accelerated stress on the spreader, thus extending equipment life.

The issue that organisations such as IAPH and the World Shipping Council have raised is not merely an academic one, studies of container weight indicate that there is often significant variation between listed and actual container weight. The problem is a familiar one: not everyone tells the truth about their weight, as the consequences of inaccurate weight can include equipment damage in ports, injury to workers and collapsed container stacks, among others.

The question is ‘how’, not ‘should’?

The general consensus has grown that universal container weight verification is a worthy standard, the key question has quickly begun to shift from whether we should we have a universal requirement to how we can best implement this commitment. Along these lines three general approaches might be possible.

The container crane option

The first possible approach is to utilise container cranes to meet the weighing requirement. The advantage of weight verification by cranes is that weighing occurs during the normal course of handling operations. The disadvantage of a crane-based approach is that weighing accuracy is only approximately 90-95 per cent, and cranes cannot distinguish between the weights of two containers when lifting in twin-mode. Since many terminals load and unload container ships using twin-lift/twin-20 foot spreaders, the actual weight of each of these individual containers will remain in doubt if there is a reliance on container cranes to yield this data. Also, with the emergence of the mega-ship era, more and more terminals will be looking for productivity solutions that enable more containers to be handled in each lift cycle, and so twin-handling of 40 and 20 foot containers is likely to expand in the future, thus adding to the number of containers with an uncertain weight.

The weigh bridge option

A second option for terminals would be to meet the container weight requirement through the use of weigh bridges. Unfortunately, there are multiple weaknesses in this approach.Containers can be weighed from the weigh bridge, but driving every container onto a weigh bridge will obviously add another operational step, and slow productivity. It also requires, especially at larger and busier transhipment terminals, that considerable land and transit lanes be set aside for weighing activities. In addition, there are two weight variables on the weigh bridge – the variable weight of up to 300 litres of truck fuel and the weight of the driver. Further, as with a container crane, a weigh bridge cannot distinguish between the weights of two containers, and so the weight of each individual container will always be inexact. The only way to gain a precise weight is to weigh one container at a time, and to adjust for fuel weight and driver weight variables.

The spreader twist lock option

The third option is to ascertain container weight from the spreader twist locks. For container terminals, a spreader-based weighing approach has several key advantages. Firstly, weighing from the spreader twist locks yields much more accurate information, as container weight precision is greater than 99 per cent. Secondly, unlike weigh bridges or crane-based container weighing, spreaders weigh each container separately when operating in twin-lift mode. When a Bromma spreader lifts two 20 foot containers or two 40 foot containers at a time, the spreader can provide highly accurate data on the weight of each separate container, and without any of the variables (fuel, driver) associated with the weigh bridge approach.

In addition, with a spreader-based approach you weigh containers from the spreader twist locks without adding any extra operational steps or requiring any extra space or transit lanes. Terminals simply log container weights in the normal course of lifting operations – with a warning system alerting the terminal to overloaded and eccentric containers. Container weight verification during the normal course of terminal operations is a way to accomplish the weighing mission without impairing terminal productivity, and especially at busy transhipment terminals. To read the full report, Click Here!

Source: www.porttechnology.org