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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Shipping Container Switcheroo

The Marine Advocate On-LIne (subscription) has this report from a major insurer of cargo containers:
THE investigation department of the TT Club, Signum Services, has issued an alert about a smuggling operation in south-east Asia, in which containers are given fake identities.

The gang obtains a container from a shipping line in the usual way but loads contraband cargo into it. The cargo is declared as something else and is ostensibly destined for a distant port. But the container has to be transhipped at a specified transit port in a third country. It is this third country that is the true destination of the contraband. In the third country, the gang obtains a second container from which it removes all identity marks, and replaces them with ones corresponding to the first container. It is then stuffed with the cargo as originally declared. A shipping line seal is then attached in the usual way. Although it is similar in appearance, its number does not correspond with the one shown on the shipping documents.

After the first container has arrived at the transit port, the second container is brought illegally into the port area and switched for the first one. Fake release documents are also created to enable the first container (with the contraband cargo) to be removed. The second container is then picked up by the intended vessel and shipped to its destination.
Should anyone notice the seal change, an inspection of the contents will show that they are in conformity with the bill of lading.

Signum points out that the scam can only work with the connivance of several people at the transit port. It is thought that the change of the second container's identity takes place in workshops that also deal with legitimate container repairs, since all the numbers (including the ones on the roof) are replaced in a professional manner, so that they appear genuine.

Interesting. If there's money it in, there's a way to get it done.

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