Good Company

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Interesting idea for checking shipping containers

Reported here, and excellent idea for a tool to be used in ports.
A device that can check shipping containers for radiation as they're unloaded will be tested at the Port of Oakland next year in the continuing effort to prevent a terrorist attack.

Dubbed the VeriSpreader, the instrument should give U.S. Customs agents the ability to detect and identify any radiation lurking inside containers shipped here from all over the globe.

The VeriSpreader is essentially a network of detectors that could be outfitted on a standard shipping crane hoist. It should be able to quickly tell the difference between a container filled with bananas and one filled with a dirty bomb. Speed, as well as safety, is of the essence in the shipping trade.

Creators of the device advertised its virtues Wednesday morning in hopes of eventually winning government approval tosell the VeriSpreader to other ports throughout the nation.

"It is an extremely cost-effective solution," said John Alioto, chairman and chief executive officer of Veritainer, the company that invented the device. "It is here to protect American ports."

Currently, ports check for radiation using Radiation Detection Portal Monitors, which are giant, upside down, u-shaped towers that trucks drive through as they enter or leave a marine terminal.

While the portal monitors can scan for radiation levels, they cannot pinpoint what type of radiation is coming from the container. That can be problematic because many items naturally emit radiation, such as bananas, cat litter and clay tiles.

In addition, each portal monitor must be staffed by a Customs agent who must constantly analyze the statistics produced by the scan.

But with the VeriSpreader, a computer does all the checking and can output analysis to show whether the container has cat litter or a nuclear weapon.

In the future, Alioto said, the device could read a ship's manifest to tell whether it is supposed to be carrying items that emit radiation.

UPDATE: Veritainer website here. And a photo of the thing itself:

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