“SICIS is a unique tool for the pro-active monitoring of container supply chains and for the first time allows a complete overview of a container’s transport”, says Robin Smith, representative of UK-based logistics provider BAP Logistics, partner in the project that developed SICIS. The SICIS system achieved the goal to track more than 5,000 containers on their way from China to Europe, a real record among research projects.
Intermodal supply chains suffer from difficult tracking and lacking visibility of cargo conditions, position and movements along the chain. Such a security threat can be faced with the proper information and communication technologies, allowing to monitor the container status and to detect un-authorized openings, to keep track of the vessels and securely share information about the container with the participating stakeholders, including the logistics service provider and authorities.
In this way, security bodies can timely intervene in case of theft, shippers can gain time and better plan the operations at terminals, e.g. knowing which vessel will carry which container and where it will dock; similarly, customs operators will gain time by having automatic access to reliable information on the container content.
SICIS is an information system developed to improve the visibility, reliability, and security of international intermodal door-to-door supply chains. This is achieved by collecting all relevant information from several sources such as the factory or consolidation centre where the container is stuffed, the operating systems of participating container terminals, tracking the vessel by its AIS (Automatic Identification System) transponder, and, as an option, CSDs (Container Security Devices) attached to the container. SICIS consolidates this information and grants access for relevant stakeholders based on a system of access rights and under strict control of the owner of the respective tradelane.
The best level of monitoring is reached if the containers are equipped with CSDs, which acquire the container’s position using GPS and transmit this information to SICIS via cellphone radio. In addition, the CSDs detect the container’s security status and raise an alarm if a container is opened without permission.
SICIS not only improves the logistics processes but also achieves a win-win situation both for industry and Customs authorities. The latter require reliable information about the containers’ contents in order to perform risk assessment in the best possible way. Very often, Customs receive ‘agent to agent’ transactions only. These contain no information about the buyer or seller, which is insufficient to allow them to perform detailed assessments. SICIS now provides the opportunity to access consignor and consignee data, which is considerably more reliable.
During the ongoing SICIS demonstration, CSDs from the China-based supplier CIMC have been used. The sea-leg of the voyage is covered by tracking the position of the vessel using information from its AIS transponder, which is read by satellite-based or terrestrial receivers. As a consequence, the container’s position is known at any time during its voyage with an accuracy of a few meters. It is not expected that all containers worldwide will be equipped with CSDs in the near future, so SICIS does not completely rely on their use. Even without a CSD, the information from the other data sources is sufficient to considerably improve the supply chain transparency.
The SICIS system achieved the goal to track more than 5,000 containers on their way from China to Europe, a real record among research projects, underlining the potential of this innovative system. SICIS (Shared Intermodal Container Information System) was developed within the INTEGRITY project (www.integrity-supplychain.eu) and has been tested in a demonstration phase since September 2009.