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Tracking containers as easy as ordering a pizza

The Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands has launched a trial of a ‘smart’ container. Over the next two years, everything that happens to the container will be carefully recorded and logged.

This smart container will not only provide peace of mind for the cargo’s owners but it can also play an important role in the fight against trafficking, says the Rotterdam Port Authority.

Smart technology 

The container is equipped with various sensors and measuring equipment and has solar panels to keep it powered. The sensors log air quality, the interior and exterior climate, movement of objects within the container, noise and odour.

‘Everything is recorded,’ says Erwin Rademaker of the Port Authority. ‘There are several GPS systems on it to measure exactly where the container is located.’According to Rademaker, this technology is already widely used in many industries but container logistics is years behind. ‘Compare it to ordering a pizza nowadays. You know exactly when the olives go on, when the courier leaves and at what temperature the pizza arrives.’

30 parties involved

Currently, containers can disappear from the radar for weeks at a time. ‘You only know what happened to your container when you open it again,’ he adds. ‘You may not think so but containers sometimes get lost. It is a very complex event. If a container comes from Singapore to Rotterdam, at least 30 parties are involved.’

Keeping an eye 24/7

The smart container project will be useful for tracking the cargo but can also play a big role in the fight against drugs and other kinds of trafficking, says Rademaker. ‘Nothing goes unnoticed anymore. When the doors are opened, an alarm is sent to our website and a camera is turned on. We can immediately see who is in the container.’ It will also be easier to know where any damage to the cargo occurred and who was responsible for the container at the time.


The Rotterdam project is similar to Eye-Seal, a track-and-trace device for monitoring shipping containers, launched in 2017 by scrap metal trader Enrique Acosta of US firm BMB Metals. Frustrated by the container theft plague and the ‘incredible’ number of ways a unit can be broken into while leaving the security seals intact, Acosta decided it was time to find a better solution to deter the thieves.

On the market soon

Eye-Seal establishes custody in the logistics chain through regular reporting and alerts the owner on each occasion – scheduled or unscheduled – that the door is opened. After several tests, Eye-Seal is now ‘close to commercial release’, Acosta tells Recycling International.

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