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JRC develops risk analysis system to fight maritime fraud

The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) has developed a software tool called ConTraffic to automatically gather and analyse data on global maritime container movements. The aim of the tool is curb the transport of counterfeit and other illegal and potentially har...

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The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) has developed a software tool called ConTraffic to automatically gather and analyse data on global maritime container movements. The aim of the tool is curb the transport of counterfeit and other illegal and potentially harmful goods.

Using sets of complex algorithms, the ConTraffic system keeps track of the ports-of-call of both a container and the ships used in the container's transport. In most of the current risk analysis systems, only the last port-of-call is registered. So far the system has collected more than 220 million records relating to more than 4.4 million containers over a period of three and a half years. It also keeps information on more than 2.6m containers belonging to seven leasing companies.

This additional information provides customs officials with a full picture of the route of a container, enabling them to spot unusual itineraries. More often than not, incongruous container movements are linked to attempts to circumvent duties or to smuggle goods.

ConTraffic is likely to have a significant impact in the battle against the transport of counterfeit and illegal goods. Up until now, the battle has seemed to many much like a losing one. No less than 90% of the world's cargo is transported in maritime containers, but only 2% is physically inspected by customs officials.

Although not complete, experts say that the ConTraffic database does nonetheless contain enough information to allow a route-based risk analysis on a sound statistical basis.

ConTraffic is currently being expanded to address the movement of security-sensitive goods. It should therefore be able to provide new indicators to support control operations at ports, particularly in the context of the global efforts such as the Container Security and Proliferation Security Initiatives. It will also feed eventually into a common set of minimum risk rules for container security in the EU.