California-based WhereNet Corp., a provider of wireless asset tracking and managing solutions, recently introduced a new RFID-based system specifically tailored to the 24/7 world of marine terminals. Called Marine Terminal Solution (MTS), the new system is designed to help improve throughput and reduce costs at busy port facilities by providing constant visibility and status information about the containers being moved into and out of the terminal area.
Rather than utilizing tracking devices attached to each shipping container, the WhereNet system uses “virtual tags,” putting the active RFID tags only on the equipment, mobile and fixed, that moves the containers into and through the port.
“The concept is like a relay race where each piece of equipment is a relay ‘runner’ and the container is the ‘baton’,” explains John Rosen, director of product marketing for WhereNet. “When a terminal receives a container, our local infrastructure of wireless WhereLAN locating access points begins following it by keeping track of which piece of equipment has the container at any given moment. When a container is ‘handed off’ from one machine to another, we keep track of that transfer. It is a much more practical, affordable solution than trying to tag every container.”
Information about those transfers is passed to the terminal's management system, enabling the terminal and others to keep track of the container at all times. “With MTS, the terminal has access to more accurate, consistent inventory information, and that helps everyone involved,” Rosen says, “including carriers. For example, drivers picking up containers do not have to search for them and carriers can provide better information and better service to their customers.”
According to the company, SSA Marine, a large, privately held container terminal operator and cargo-handling company, is deploying the WhereNet wireless Marine Terminal Solution at four West coast ports this year.