Shipping Nuclear Material Safely

Radiation label beside the transport wooden box Type A package in the truck

Every year, U.S. shipping companies transport around 3 million shipments containing nuclear material. We use radioactive substances for cancer treatments, power generation, scientific research, and more. Transporting radioactive material isn’t that much different from transporting any other cargo, but it requires specialized equipment and procedures to keep everyone safe.

Laws and Regulations

Shipping nuclear material is one case where most people would agree that extra regulations are a good thing. The regulations vary depending on how radioactive a shipment is. For some materials, the metal walls of a shipping container are more than enough to protect people from radiation. For more dangerous materials that could threaten public safety, regulations dictate specialized packaging, labeling, and handling procedures.

Secure Packaging

The last thing anyone wants is a containment breach. That’s why nuclear material is shipped in special packaging designed to resist impact, fire, and water and keep radiation from escaping. Containment for radioactive items usually involves multiple layers of metal, concrete, and composite materials.

Enhanced Security

The world is a dangerous place, and there are many bad actors who would like to get their hands on nuclear material, making extra security necessary. Logistics companies dealing with nuclear items plan their shipping routes carefully, and each shipment is tracked constantly. Trucks may even travel with an escort of armed guards. In addition, most shipments of nuclear material avoid heavily populated areas whenever possible.

Extra Training

It doesn’t take a degree in nuclear physics to drive a truck containing radioactive material, but drivers should at least know the basics. In particular, they must be educated about handling procedures and safety precautions. Radioactive material is generally safe when it’s handled properly, but mistakes can be costly. It’s important that everyone knows exactly what they’re doing.

Transporting nuclear material is a unique challenge for shipping companies, but with proper precautions and preparations, it’s a challenge that any logistics professional can meet.

How E-Commerce Affects U.S. Surface Transportation

Import and Export Concept: Forklift truck, cargo container and plane at a dock yard against sunrise sky

Without government regulation, the supply chain industry could not exist in its current form. The United States government builds roads and the infrastructure needed to manage traffic on the ground, at sea, and in the air, so it’s natural for government agencies to be involved with every mode of transportation in the supply chain.

As the logistics industry and the world economy evolve, the government updates its regulations to keep up with the times. For example, e-commerce has relatively recently become a major factor in global trade. Now that the U.S. House Subcommittees on Highways and Transit and Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials are considering 2020’s update to the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, e-commerce is a concern.

What’s Different About E-Commerce?

E-commerce, specifically business-to-consumer sales, depends on intermodal transportation. In the brick-and-mortar retail model, retail outlets receive items in bulk, and consumers take them from the store to their homes or places of business. In the e-commerce retail model, goods go directly from warehouses to consumers. This final leg of shipping is called the “last mile,” and it represents a different way of thinking about shipping.

The U.S. federal government is a major source of funding for surface transportation projects. Shipping industry leaders are working to ensure that the government approves and builds the right projects to support thriving e-commerce. There are three areas of concern:

1) Collecting Accurate Data
Making better decisions starts with having the best information. Collecting accurate freight data related to e-commerce shipping is the best way to ensure that new projects are meeting the needs of today and tomorrow.

2) Increasing Flexibility
Trusting Congress to manage transportation projects and investment nationwide is a recipe for disaster. Since changes in last-mile shipping trends affect localized areas, building flexibility into federal grants and allowing local governments to manage local projects is a better way to go.

3) Reducing Greenhouse Emissions
The supply chain industry depends on large vehicles like trains, ships, and increasingly due to growing e-commerce, trucks. We often associate these vehicles with greenhouse gas emissions. According to the EPA, they expect the transportation sector to produce over 1,800 million metric tons of CO2 each year. The House subcommittees must consider options that encourage reducing emissions for shipping e-commerce to remain sustainable.

E-commerce has made goods more accessible and life more convenient for people in every corner of the globe, and it depends on efficient logistics to do so. Cooperation between the government and the shipping industry will ensure that e-commerce continues to make an overall positive impact.

An Introduction to the Inter-American Committee on Ports

The Port of Seattle on a clear Spring day

The modern world couldn’t function without global trade and shipping. International trade unlocks economic opportunities and gives billions of people access to the items they need at prices they can afford.

International shipping can’t take place without organized ports to help move cargo in and out of a region. Unfortunately, ports have a bad reputation in some circles—they’re undeservedly associated with corruption and inefficiency. The Inter-American Committee on Ports (CIP) is working to change this mindset. It’s the only organization that brings the national port authorities of 35 member countries together to improve shipping and logistics for everyone.

The General Secretariat of the Organization of American States founded the CIP in 2005. It’s primarily concerned with collaboration in the fields of navigation and port sector development. Though CIP’s work focuses on countries in the Western Hemisphere, people around the world feel the impact of its efforts.

What the CIP Is All About:

1) Helping Port Cities Win

The goal of the CIP is to make each port a model of inclusive, secure, and sustainable operations. The organization assists with port development projects in service of this goal. When port cities win, it’s good for everyone.

2) Policy Dialogue

Before policies can change, people need to talk about them. The CIP is committed to fostering a dialogue between different governments and trade organizations in its sphere of influence.

3) Increasing Capacity

Economists expect the importance of global shipping to increase. The CIP is preparing for this by working to enhance the capacity and capabilities of ports around the world. Improving port infrastructure is the best way to achieve this goal.

4) Technical Assistance

Computers and other technology have revolutionized nearly every industry, logistics certainly included. Technology can make ports run more smoothly and efficiently, but only if shipping professionals know how to apply it. The CIP supports programs to educate port employees about new technologies.

5) Cooperation with Private Sector

All too often, the public and private sectors are at odds with each other. Private sector entities would prefer to be left alone to work, while public sector entities are tasked with protecting people, facilities, and the environment. The CIP facilitates communication between members of the public and private sectors and helps them come to an understanding.