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Biometrics - Case Studies

Rotterdam Port controls entry with a biometric security system

"Combining smart cards with biometric identification at the Port of Rotterdam has reduced cargo handling time significantly and increased security levels." - Helen Thomas, international sales manager, Recognition System


Europe's largest container port strengthens security and speeds cargo handling with biometric access control systems.

Business Need

The Port of Rotterdam, Europe's largest container port and a major international industrial and transportation hub, shipped or processed more than 322 million tons of cargo in 2003; mostly bulk goods like oil, chemicals and ores. Much of the cargo is processed right at the port.

Port management needed a fast, reliable, secure way to track cargo, trucks, and personnel moving in, out and around the vast complex, which spans 40 kilometres (24.85 miles) from city centre to the North Sea.


The Port of Rotterdam's access control system had to be rugged enough to stand up to severe North Sea weather conditions, easy for truckers and stevedores to use, fraud-proof, portable and flexible enough to integrate with the port's logistics systems.

Biometric systems met the port's requirements.  Unlike badges or credentials, which can be forged, lost or stolen, and require personnel to man access points, biometric systems use a unique human characteristic such as finger, eye or hand to verify identity quickly and automatically.

Among the biometric options, fingerprint systems, the lowest-cost solution, were less accurate with large populations than hand geometry systems.  The port's truckers and stevedores resisted iris scanners.  However, they had no problem placing a hand on a reader.


Recognition Systems (a subsidiary of Ingersoll Rand), the worldwide leader in biometric access control, helped the Port of Rotterdam build a secure; easy-to-use access control system based on hand geometry.  The system, in use since 1998, gives each driver that enters the port a unique electronic identity.

Each driver receives a smart card embedded with a chip that contains the driver's photo, personal identification and company information.  The smart card also stores a biometric template of the driver's left hand.  This is so the driver can pass through some of the secure entries without leaving the vehicle.

Each of the port's gates, plants, loading docks, staging areas and other critical entry points is equipped with a Recognition Systems HandKey®. Ruggedized for outdoor use, even in the harshest conditions, the HandKey II uses field-proven hand geometry technology to map and verify the size and shape of a person's hand in less than one second.

The driver places his left hand on the HandKey and inserts the smart card. If the hand matches the template in the smart card, the driver is verified and can pass through the access control point.


As cargo travels through the Port of Rotterdam, the HandKey system plays many roles.  At the terminal entrances, the system identifies and registers driver and cargo.  At each stop along the way, information systems linked into the HandKey system instruct the driver where to go and in what sequence.  Processing is faster because driver and receiver know arrival times in advance.

When cargo offloads to a ship or plant, or loads onto the truck for delivery elsewhere in Europe, the receiver or shipper performs a final check to see that everything has been handled properly.  As the driver exits, the HandKey serves as an electronic signature, certifying that the transfer took place correctly.

"The process of automating container handling has taken a big step forward," said Helen Thomas, international sales manager for Recognition Systems.  "Combining smart cards with biometric identification at the Port of Rotterdam has reduced cargo handling time significantly and increased security levels."

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