How to Keep Intermodal Shipments Safe

Quick security tips for protecting the contents of intermodal containers as they are shipped to their final destinations, whether in the United States or around the world

MAIN How to Keep Intermodal Shipments Safe

Quick tips and best practices to follow to keep intermodal containers safe

Intermodal containers can carry all sorts of products, from small grains to large appliances. While containers are built with steel designed to stand up to just about any type of weather, they can still be targets for theft when left unattended. Fortunately, shippers can take proactive steps to keep them safe.

Intermodal Container Security Tips

Follow these best practices to keep intermodal shipments secure:

  • Properly seal containers. Use the most protective seals, like Theft-Deterrent or Barrier seals, for high-value loads. Tin or plastic seals are not recommended.
  • When it’s feasible, load high-value products toward the nose of the trailer/container away from loading doors to keep them concealed and out of reach.
  • Don’t put identifying marks, like a company name or logo, on seals or on the outside of the trailer/container.
  • Before loading a container, check to make sure all locking devices are working properly.
  • Consider fitting the container with a security system.
  • Only give information on shipments to key personnel.
  • Ask your rail carrier if they have any type of protection program. For instance, Union Pacific has a High-Value Protection Program for products packaged for retail sale and valued at $100,000 or more.

What Are the Different Types of Intermodal Container Seals?

Container seals are an important part of preventing theft. Seals come in the following types:

  • Theft-Deterrent/Barrier Seals

When you want the highest level of protection, Theft-Deterrent or Barrier seals are the best way to prevent unauthorized access to containers or trailers. That’s because Theft-Deterrent seals stand up to typical seal removal methods, including bolt cutters. This makes Theft-Deterrent or Barrier seals the best choice for high-value loads.

  • Security Seals (Bolt Seals and Cable Seals)

Security seals also prevent unauthorized entry into a container but aren’t as tough as theft-deterrent seals. Security seals are made of metal or metal-clad cable, and typically require bolt cutters to be removed.

  • Indicative Seals (Tin or Plastic Seals)

Indicative seals don’t prevent entry. Instead, they are only used to show whether a container has been opened. Because they provide the least protection, indicative seals should only be used on loads where theft or contamination aren’t a concern. Because tin and plastic seals don’t provide protection from theft, they are not recommended.

How Do Container Security Systems Work?

Container security systems detect motion and can deter criminals and/or alert security to the presence of intruders.

One type of system consists of a motion detector and panel that are placed inside the container. When disturbed, this panel can trigger a sound or light to scare intruders away, or can trigger a radio signal that alerts security guards.

While internal motion detector systems can be helpful deterrents, it’s important to be aware that if items inside the container aren’t loaded properly and come loose, they can trigger a false alarm. Dirty sensors may also trigger misdetection. And, if a burglar tries to access the container by cutting into its side, the motion detector can be obstructed, rendering it useless.

Tomographic motion detectors avoid these issues. Instead of being placed inside of the container, the container is covered with a volumetric sensing mesh. Because it is on the outside of the container, it can’t be blocked by the contents of the container.

What Do Railroads Do to Keep Intermodal Shipments Safe?

Railroads also do their part to keep shipments safe. Railroads have their very own police forces who are responsible for keeping shipments of all types safe. But intermodal shipments of high-value finished goods can receive special attention.

For instance, Union Pacific’s High-Value Protection Program provides additional surveillance for containers valued at $100,000 or more. So shipments with products that may be prime targets for theft, like computers, apparel, electronics, alcohol or cigarettes, travel with additional security provided by the railroad. The High-Value Protection Program includes additional safety measures like placing containers in high-visibility areas at intermodal facilities and en route surveillance by the Union Pacific Police Department.

Learn More

If you want to learn more about how intermodal shipping can give you a safe, economical, environmentally responsible shipping solution, get in touch.

Related Articles

"How to Keep Intermodal Shipments Safe" Video

Latest Stories

Share This!