The world is a very different place out beyond the horizon. Even as you read this, there are some 40,000 large cargo ships plying the world’s waterways and oceans, not to mention innumerable smaller merchant craft, all pulling in and out of ports, loading, unloading, changing out crews and cargos, and steaming from one location to the next.
In what can be a very murky world of shadowy ship registry offices, lengthy manifests, and dockhands who change out faster than Barbosa’s crew, how all these ships come by their cargo, how that cargo is loaded, by what polyglot seamen and in what untamed ports, can be an amazingly scrambled and trackless story rivaling the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Scenario: A single ship starts out in Singapore with containers filled with electronics, passes through Indonesia where it picks up spices, sails to Calcutta to load cotton, Port Said where it boards an Egyptian crew, Piraeus where it stops for fuel, Tangier where it picks up leathers, Scotland where it packs in woolen sweaters, and finally sets sail for Newark, New Jersey. Eleven million containers packed with such goods reach U.S. ports every year.
At any point in a merchant ship’s journey, pry open container XYZ mid-ocean, and what might you find" When you can’t be sure, that spells danger. The possibility that a single container has gone purposefully astray and might now be packed with explosives, or loaded with a virulent biologic destined for our shores, is not a fictional scenario. (In 1988, it was an Al Qaeda merchant ship that delivered the materials needed to bomb U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. That same ship was never seen again.)
Given lots of time, customs agents could find all contraband. But, in the world of maritime shipping, time is the enemy. Try delaying a delivery, and you may face some rough characters down at the docks (think On the Waterfront). What's more, anything that hinders the swift transit of goods around the world can have a rippling effect on the world’s economy.
MATTS – DHS S&T’s Marine Asset Tag Tracking System – is a miniature sensor, data logging computer, radio transceiver, and GPS tracking system integrated into a compact and inexpensive black box, about the size of a deck of cards. Affixed to a shipping container, MATTS can use its on-board GPS chip to estimate its location if the GPS signal is lost. And, in the final version of the system, containers outfitted with MATTS tags will be able to transmit through shipboard communications systems, even if they are placed deep below deck. The tag’s signal will “jump” from container to container until it finds a path it can use. Better yet, this black box stores its location history and reports it back when in range (up to 1 km) of an Internet equipped ship, container terminal, or a cell phone tower. At any point in a container’s journey, its history can be examined, and if anything has gone amiss, authorities know instantly to scrutinize that particular container.
Ultimately, MATTS will be integrated with S&T’s Advanced Container Security Device. The ACSD sends an alert through MATTS when a container has been opened or tampered with on any side, providing even more security.
“MATTS will globally communicate in-transit alerts to Customs and Border Protection, and this capability satisfies a high-priority CBP requirement,” says Bob Knetl, Program Manager for the MATTS research within S&T’s Borders and Maritime Division.
In late April 2007, one hundred MATTS-equipped containers started out in the Port of Yokohama, Japan, and are now making their trans-Pacific crossing to the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach, where they will then continue by rail to the Rochelle, Illinois, Rail Terminal and be unloaded and trucked to their final destination. This test, ending in August, will demonstrate that the communications can be used internationally (in this case, by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation) and that transitioning to domestic drayage once portside in Long Beach also runs smoothly.
MATTS was developed under a DHS S&T Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract by iControl Incorporated, a small Santa Clara, CA-based company.
“A serious threat is posed by the cargo that containers may hold,” says Vinny Schaper, SBIR Program manager. “We have to view the ocean with grave concern, and realize that a maritime attack is not beyond the realm of possibility and if it comes, it will probably involve the use of merchant ships. Eleven million containers a year are brought onto our docks. Interrupt this with a terrorist attack, and the backup would reach around the world.”
Gail Cleere | EurekAlert!
Tool helps cities to plan electric bus routes, and calculate the benefits
09.01.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Realistic training for extreme flight conditions
28.12.2016 | Technical University of Munich (TUM)
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction