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Shipping-container seals standardized

By LIN SHUJUAN in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2023-03-28 09:33

A crane loads containers at Erenhot Port in North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region. [Photo/Xinhua]

The International Organization for Standardization recently released a standard for international container transportation proposed by a research team from East China Normal University, which is set to bring a digital upgrade to the industry.

The standard stipulates the technological requirements for near-field communication tags and quick response codes used to seal containers.

According to Bao Qifan, leader of the research team and dean of the Academy of International Transport and Logistics at the university, this standard will make international container transportation more intelligent and reduce logistics costs.

"The container NFC or/and QR code seal is the 'digital lock' of the container. Through it, the transportation track and safety status of the container can be monitored in real time, so as to control the flow of goods and realize the whole-process monitoring," said Bao, also known as the "cargo-handling king" in China for his decades of efforts and award-winning achievements in inventing and perfecting cargo handling technologies.

The safety and transparency of the container transportation process have always been the focus of the industry, Bao said.

He explained that every container needs a seal that also serves as a transport handover certificate.

Presently, the shipping industry relies mostly on mechanical seals, which can be problematic at times because they can be forced open or replaced illegally, and this leads to other problems such as smuggling and theft of goods.

Moreover, the use of mechanical seals requires manual input of relevant information, which is not only inefficient, but also prone to errors.

Bao's team spent more than eight years on the research and development and industrial application of container NFC or/and QR code sealing technology.

The achievements won the Shanghai Science and Technology Progress Award and the China Navigation Science and Technology Progress Award.

"Formulation of an international standard is a process when a global consensus is reached, which can be long and arduous, especially when it coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic," Bao said.

In 2019, Sinotrans Container Lines, one of the largest logistics companies in China, took the lead in using NFC/QR code seals that comply with ISO/TS 7352 regulations, and provided them on its China-Japan, China-South Korea, and Southeast Asia routes, according to the company's general manager Zhao Chunji.

"As a user, I am delighted to see that container NFC or/and QR code seals are now being quickly adopted around the world, which will help promote the development of the industry relying on digital means to facilitate the standardization of containers," Zhao said.

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