This guest article has been written by Identec Solutions
When Identec Solutions set out on the journey of bringing a traditional Position Detection System (PDS, Terminal Tracker) to the market, we imagined the main motivating factors for purchasing would be keeping 100 per cent yard stowage accuracy and the elimination of Cargo Handling Equipment (CHE) operators’ keystrokes.
But then we were approached by container terminal managers with a different issue: Contraband and terminal safety.
On their way from South America to Europe, the journey of MSC Gayane ended at the Port of Philadephia abruptly. US Customs and Border Protection intercepted the vessel on 16 June, 2019 and x-rayed containers the next day.
It took an entire week to detect and register cocaine-made bricks within the ship’s load. In total, they weighed almost 20 tons with an estimated street value of $1.3 billion, which is the largest drug seizure in the history of the US customs agency.
Globalisation and international maritime commerce have provided traffickers with the perfect chance to reach global markets. Over the last twenty years, container shipping has become the most common form of trafficking into Europe.
Every year, 750 million containers are shipped around the globe, but less than two per cent of these are ever inspected. From the narcotics traffickers’ point of view, the challenge of this business model is to disguise large shipments to compensate for smaller seizures while maximising profits.
Finding drugs in containers is a tricky task. Let’s call it “the needle in a haystack”, being the major advantage drug traffickers exploit. Less surprisingly, containers became the principal trafficking approach.
When authorities discovered the security gap posed by container trafficking, they focused on shipping lines arriving from countries that were most commonly used for cocaine or opium shipments. Traffickers reacted by spreading out across the region, searching for new harbours that raised fewer suspicions.
The methods smugglers use to follow a pattern: once a new way of smuggling is successful, it will be exploited to the maximum.
In the case of the MSC ships, crew members were bribed to collaborate with the smugglers. Replacement seals are used to close the opened containers and camouflage any tempering.
There are many other successful ways for traffickers to get narcotics (and other goods) undetected onboard, primarily using container terminals as their entry/exit point and misusing the container handling procedures to their advantage.
The fallout of these new criminal dynamics became observable in high murder rates in these ports. Gang wars for control of the ports or killings of workers that resisted their authority seem commonplace.
So the question is: How can this crisis change for the better? Some experts in both the public and private sectors see the solution in technology.
We prepared a whitepaper for you explaining how technology may help make terminals safer and containers more protected: Container Terminal Safety and the Rise of Technology.