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Port Authority uses tablets for cargo inspections

Karl Flinders

Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority (SCPHA) is using tablet devices and a wireless network to increase the speed and accuracy of its cargo inspections.

SCPHA forms part of the Suffolk Coastal District Council, which inspects cargo coming into some of the UK’s busiest ports. It has 50 inspectors based at various ports checking non-animal food products brought into the country.

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Previously, inspectors would inspect cargo and fill in paper reports, which would be sent back to the headquarters to be recorded and stored. But, following the implementation of the wireless network, inspectors can take the details using Google Nexus 10 devices and upload them in real-time to the SCPHA systems. It rolled out VMware virtualisation software with skills and training provided by its service provider CSA Waverley.

Richard Jacobs, technical manager at SCPHA, said the move to enable remote documentation was the next part of a larger project that began when the organisation moved from legacy information management system, with a web-based core database application, known as Philis, in 2012.

“We wanted to take the desktop out of the office but still provide the same level of security,” said Jacobs.

As well as saving time and making record-taking more accurate. the quality of the cameras on the devices has enabled photographic records to be made of cargo.

The project faced challenges ensuring its wireless network didn’t conflict with the network of the port of Felixstowe. It also had to ensure wireless access points were waterproof because they are found in often hostile sites.

Jacobs said the Nexus 10 devices are virtual desktops but have software to control what goes on them. He said the tablet can simulate what staff have on their desktops, but they do not want to risk overloading them.

He said as a regulatory body the ability to do the job quicker and more effectively is important. “The money element is secondary to effectiveness because we are a regulator and have to meet EU rules.”

The next project could see the SCPHA introduce scanning capabilities to inspectors to enable them to record the documents that come with a cargo.


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