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Container Shipping and Security Issues: the Carriers' Responsibility in the Fight Against Terrorism


Today, the container shipping industry faces a threat from terrorism that could not be envisaged before 9/11. While the public sector has already initiated a variety of aggressive programs to tackle such threats, the private industry also needs to prove its ability to share the burden. An imminent challenge is to deter and prevent the use of ocean containers as weapons of mass destruction. This paper specifically focuses on an effective use of information technology to assist the fight against terrorism. It proposes a new idea to the container shipping industry, namely that the container shipping industry must approach security issues through the use of interconnected standardised databases within a common information system. The industry was born in the late 1960s, when technology was not readily available to accommodate an information system at this level. The dramatic progress of information technology, however, permits the industry today to embrace new business solutions in order to strengthen security. Many years ago, this was just a concept and a theory, but today it can be put into actual practice. These solutions would ensure the authorities' fast and timely response against terrorism. Immediate action by the industry is now necessary to prevent any ocean container from being used as a weapon of mass destruction.

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  1. An example of information tools and devices – RFID: Savi Asset Management System for Intermodal Containers is a full-featured Web application that provides continuous online tracking, security monitoring, and management of cargo containers and other assets. The application provides instant notification when container inventory is low or when containers are lost, misrouted, or damaged. It also allows container managers to identify container locations, plan and audit usage, and redirect unused containers to high-demand locations. The integrated Secure & Control feature function ensures that all cargo moves through approved security procedures and is inspected, sealed, and accepted by authorised personnel. (from

  2. Point of Sale (POS) is capturing data at the time and place of sale. Point of sale systems use personal computers or specialised terminals that are combined with cash registers, bar code readers, optical scanners and magnetic stripe readers for accurately and instantly capturing the transaction.

  3. The Internet SOCiety (ISOC) is a professional membership society with more than 150 organisations and 11,000 individual members in over 182 countries. It provides leadership in addressing issues that confront the future of the Internet, and is home to the groups responsible for Internet infrastructure standards, including the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Internet Architecture Board (IAB). (from

  4. UN/CEFACT: United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business. It is open to participation for Member States, intergovernmental organisations, and sectoral and industry associations recognised by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC). The Center's objective is to be inclusive and it actively encourages organisations to contribute and help develop its recommendations and standards. SMDG: it develops and promotes UN/EDIFACT EDI-messages for the Maritime Industry and is an official Pan European User Group, recognised by the UN/EDIFACT Board.

  5. C-TPAT: a joint government-business initiative to build co-operative relationships that strengthen overall supply chain and border security. C-TPAT recognises that Customs can provide the highest level of security only through close cooperation with the ultimate owners of the supply chain, importers, carriers, brokers, warehouse operators and manufacturers. Through this initiative, Customs is asking businesses to ensure the integrity of their security practices and communicate their security guidelines to their business partners within the supply chain.

  6. The World Shipping Council is a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing more than 40 liner shipping companies serving America's international trade. Council members include the largest container lines in the world as well as smaller niche carriers, and carriers providing roll-on/roll-off and heavy-lift services. In addition to ocean transportation, they provide a wide range of intermodal and logistics services to American importers and exporters. The Council's goal is to provide a coordinated voice for the liner shipping industry in its work with policymakers and other industry groups interested in international transportation issues, including: maritime security, regulatory policy, tax issues, safety, the environment, harbour dredging and upgrading the infrastructure needed to handle America's booming trade (from


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Noda, S. Container Shipping and Security Issues: the Carriers' Responsibility in the Fight Against Terrorism. Marit Econ Logist 6, 157–186 (2004).

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  • Information technology
  • terrorism
  • container as WMD
  • container unit-based management
  • database standards
  • cargo visibility