Cargo Security Technologies
Report 2005.TL.6947, Transport Engineering and Logistics.
This report discusses the threats that face cargo and the technologies to
protect them against these threats. The transportation system is based on
openness and accessibility to allow efficient, organized, and fast
movement of cargo. Because of these characteristics, cargo is very
vulnerable to theft, pilferage, smuggling, and terrorist misuse.
Cargo theft creates enormous economic losses. The direct cost of cargo
theft is 30 to 50 billion euro per year worldwide. The events of 9-11
showed that the terrorist's main goal is to disrupt the economy. The
successful detonation of a weapon of mass destruction or an explosive
device in a container or trailer at a logistic hub could easily cause an
economic impact of over 1 trillion euro.
Many government regulations have been implemented to protect the supply
chain and cargo. In many cases, they affect trade worldwide. Governments
have formed, with the private sector, public-private partnerships to
stimulate the research, development, and implementation of new security
technologies. Companies must implement security technologies to comply
with the regulations. The implementation of cargo security measures not
only increases security but will also increase the efficiency of the
logistic processes. Security technologies, such as Tracking and Tracing
and Radio Frequency Identification, will provide a better visibility into
the supply chain and increase by this means efficiency.
The first step to secure cargo is securing cargo handling and storage
facilities. The perimeter security is the first obstacle for unauthorized
access. A physical barrier like a fence, wall or water will hinder or
delay intruders. With the use of adequate lighting, alarm intrusion
sensors, gates and closed-circuit television the security is further
Every mode of the transportation system employs many people involved with
handling cargo or its documentation. Access Control is needed to ensure
that only authorized people have access. This first step for an adequate
Access Control system is background investigations and protocols for all
personnel handling cargo and employed in ports, terminals, storage areas,
etc. Access Control replaces the standard key with an intelligent permit
system, usually in the form of a badge or a plastic laminated card. To
verify the user and his ID card, biometric information systems are
Locks and or seals provide a way to secure the cargo. Locks are used on
containers, rail cars, trailers or other transport conveyance to deter,
slow down or deny entry to the cargo. Indicative seals have the sole
purpose to indicate whether an unauthorized access attempt has been made.
Barrier seals provide physical security to the cargo. They also give
evidence of tampering or an attempt to gain access. Electronic seals are a
combination of a mechanical seal and electronic components. An electronic
seal provides tamper evidence, physical security, and data management.
Electronic seals can be divided into four groups: radio frequency
identification, infrared, direct contact, and very long range cellular or
satellite (GPS). All except for the simplest solutions are capable of
reporting sensor information and data that goes beyond seal status and
identification of the seal.
A very promising technology to secure the cargo and its transport is the
use of tracking and tracing (T&T). The T&T systems are integrated
with all kinds of communication technologies like satellite communication,
radio frequency (RF), and cellular. T&T systems can give a
time-to-time or a continuous update on the cargo's position. There are
also systems that signal status-changes, like the opening of the door or
movement within the container. Short-range is the tracking and tracing of
cargo or the conveyance transporting within a certain area. This area can
be a warehouse, shipyard, or a smaller area like a gate. Long-range
tracking and tracing is not restricted to a certain area, the position can
be determined wherever the cargo is. There are new sensor systems
available that use sensors attached to or embedded in an asset, mostly
containers, which communicate using wireless mesh networks. These wireless
networks can be integrated with other sensors to monitor different aspects
of the asset. The tracking information does not only provide more
security, it also facilitates and identifies problem areas of the supply
Internal sensors provide a container or trailer with the ability to detect
intrusion and monitor the integrity. All these sensors are or can be
integrated with a wireless communication device to send an alarm to an
operator. The sensors enable the operators, authorities, and other
involved parties, to pinpoint the conveyance that needs inspection. There
are recent developments for an Advanced Container Security Device (ACSD).
The ACSD is installed within a maritime shipping container and is equipped
with all kinds of internal sensors and communication systems.
Inspection technologies are used by customs to inspect cargo for the
presence of contraband, narcotics, people, weapons, explosives, and other
illegal materials. The technologies provide the means to inspect cargo
without opening it. The primary function of cargo inspection is to quickly
clear the overwhelming number of legitimate cargo while maintaining a high
level of security. Some of these technologies will give a signal when a
threat material is detected. The other technologies, specifically those
who produce an image, rely on an operator's interpretation of the produced
The transportation of cargo from origin to destination is accompanied with
lots hand-of points where either paper has to change hands or an
Electronic Data Interchange message set is exchanged. The internet is
becoming the primary means to exchange information regarding the different
aspects of cargo. This system, however, may be vulnerable. The information
stored on databases and exchanged between parties can be stolen by a
cyberattack. The internet offers access to high-tech software, which, with
high-tech hardware, can be used to produce fraudulent shipment papers. To
protect the information systems against attacks and fraud, different
technologies are available. Some protect the actual databases, for
example, firewalls and access control software. Others protect the
exchange of information with the use of encryption software, digital
signatures, or a Virtual Private Network.
Integration and combination of technologies increase the security level.
This integration is possible with the use of security-integrated software.
The maximum feasible security is achieved with a layered security system.
The great benefit is that the technologies provide a backup for one
another. Of course, there will be always a change that the system is
defeated, there is no guaranty for 100% security. However, the use of
information systems and integration of technologies enables quick
identification of weak spots to ensure that adequate measures can be
Reports on Transport Engineering and Logistics (in Dutch)
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