Rotterdam port's 'smart' container to help combat trafficking, keep track of cargo

Container ship at the port of Rotterdam
Container ship at the port of RotterdamPhoto: Kees Torn/Port of Rotterdam

Rotterdam is launching an experiment with its 'smart' container on Friday. Container 42 departs from the port today, and it will record everything that happens to it for the next two years. This smart container will not only provide peace of mind for cargo, but can also play an important role in the fight against trafficking, according to the Rotterdam Port Authority, NOS reports.

The self-sufficient container is equipped with all kinds of sensors, measuring equipment and solar panels to keep it powered. "Sensors that measure the air quality, the climate inside and out, the movement of objects in the container, noise, odor. Everything is recorded", Erwin Rademaker of the Port Authority said to the broadcaster. "And there are several GPS systems on it that can measure exactly where the container is in the world."

According to Rademaker, this technology is already widely used in many industries, but container logistics are years behind. "Compare it to ordering a pizza nowadays. Then you know exactly when the olives go on, when the courier leaves and at what temperature the pizza arrives." But a container can still disappear from the radar for weeks at a time. "You only know what happened to the container when you open it again. And you may not think so, but containers sometimes get lost. It is a very complex event. If a container has to come from Singapore to Rotterdam, at least 30 parties are involved."

The smart container project will definitely be useful for cargo tracking, but can also play a big role in the fight against drug- and other kinds of trafficking, Rademaker said. "Nothing can go unnoticed anymore When the doors are opened, an alarm is sent to our website and the camera turns on. So then we immediately see who is in the container." It will also be easier to find out where any damage to cargo occurred, and who was responsible for the container at the time.

In the longer term, the Port Authority also sees possibilities for linking the container to the port of Rotterdam's own processes. "You can imagine that this container will talk to cranes in the future. Or that it will fill in its own customs forms, because it knows exactly where it has been and that it has not been opened."