A Smarter Way to Seal Containers: How Digitalization is Improving Logistics

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This aerial photo taken on March 13, 2023 shows a container terminal of Taicang Port, east China's Jiangsu Province. (Xinhua/Li Bo)

Chinese researchers have developed a digitalized container sealing technology and promoted it to an international standard to facilitate global container transportation.

The container standard was officially released by the International Organization for Standardization (IOS) in Geneva, Switzerland, according to researchers from the East China Normal University (ECNU).

This remarkable development signifies a major breakthrough in the establishment of international standards in the fields of logistics and transportation as well as the advancement of digitalization in container logistics.

The ECNU researchers have dedicated eight years to conducting extensive research and development (R&D) of container sealing technology embedded with QR code or Near Field Communication (NFC), along with its industrial application. Their efforts have resulted in significant contributions towards enhancing the intelligence level of international container transportation and reducing logistics costs.

For container transportation, each container comes with a seal that can be used to track the container’s delivery and safety conditions, and serves as its handover certificate. However, traditional mechanical seals are vulnerable to illegal tampering, resulting in smuggling or theft during the logistics process.

The latest development has transformed container seals from mechanical to digital, utilizing the power of BeiDou and low-orbit satellites. This technological advancement has enabled real-time, visualized, traceable, and big data integrated monitoring of container seals.

The container seals equipped with NFC or QR code are a type of electronic lock that facilitates transportation tracking and safety condition monitoring, said Bao Qifan, a professor at the ECNU.

He added that the research project proposal was submitted to the IOS in December 2017 for the first time, and the third proposal passed the assessment in June 2021.

Currently, digitalized container seals are being used in various industries and applications such as inspection and quarantine in China, domestic trade container transportation, the transportation of dangerous goods, energy, food and daily chemical products, as well as the petrochemical industry and logistics.

Since 2019, Sinotrans Container Lines, a marine transportation services provider, has extensively used container seals equipped with NFC or QR codes in its Asian routes.

According to Bao, almost 6 million container seals have been sold to the United States and Canada, among other countries, and the order volume is increasing year by year.

Xinhua News Agency

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