RFID secures meat shipments

The Smart and Secure Tradelanes (SST) initiative has launched a demonstration project with Meatco (www.meatco.com.na), a southwest African supplier of additives for meat and fish products, to examine whether tagging shipments with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags will improve quality management of perishable products, including customer satisfaction.

The SST for Africa project, like Operation Safe Commerce, is designed to improve the safety and security practices of intermodal freight transportation. Where the project differs from Operation Safe Commerce is the fact it operates from a developing nation, Namibia, to Europe, with no direct link to the U.S. (but not without a U.S. presence). The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), Savi Technology and EJ Brooks have joined with South African Port Operations, the World Customs Organization, SIMTAG and the Namibian Port Authority to tag and track the shipments end-to-end in real time.

Beef was loaded into a refrigerated container at the Okahandja Plant in Namibia, electronically sealed and transported by truck to the Port of Walvis Bay. Feeder vessels carried the container to the Port of Cape Town, South Africa, where it was transshipped on a deep-sea vessel to Tilbury Container Services' terminal in the U.K.

A second shipment was loaded aboard a truck at the Windhoek Plant in Namibia, sealed and transported to Table Bay Cold Stores, where it was unsealed, unpacked and put into storage. When ready for shipment, the goods were loaded into a refrigerated container, sealed and trucked to Cape Town, where it was loaded aboard a ship bound for the Port of Tilbury.

The battery-powered active RFID sensor-seals are provided by Savi Technology and single-use E-Seals are supplied by EJ Brooks. The tagged shipments are tracked automatically by fixed and mobile handheld RFID readers at key inland and seaport checkpoints between Namibia and the UK.

Savi's Transportation Security System (TSS) forms a link with the SIMTAG software portal, which receives data from TSS and creates a journey plan. The Automated Identification System (AIS) supplies the latitude and longitude information on the feeder vessels transporting the containers from Walvis Bay to Cape Town. This is the first time TSS has incorporated vessel location information from AIS. The USTDA helped fund the project, which deployed similar RFID technologies and software in a demonstration project from the port of Bangkok to the U.S. port of Seattle.

Participants in the projects have designed open network platforms that can incorporate data from all types of software applications and automatic identification technologies, including bar codes, sensors, passive and active RFID, and satellite tracking systems. This project extends SST to its fifth continent after having tracked containers at installations in more than 15 other port operations in Asia, Europe, Latin America and the U.S. Over 2,000 containers equipped with active RFID sensor seals have been shipped under SST-related programs.

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