Data Destruction on Ships: Here’s what to Know

December 21, 2010 at 1:45 pm by SEM

Destruction of classified documents and computer media on ships has always meant extra challenges. Compared to an office environment, shipboard locations have much greater concerns with space requirements, durability, fire resistance, and reparability when at sea.

There are many options for document destruction and information destruction equipment that suit a shipboard location in the major categories of equipment- paper shredders, disintegrators, and degaussers. Careful selection can mean better usability and durability.

For paper shredders, pressboard and plastic cabinets became the standard over the last 10 years. These materials often prove fragile on ships, easily cracking or breaking off hinges. There are now select shredders built with metal cabinets that can much better withstand shaking, bumping, and other hard wear.

Another area where paper shredders have lagged other equipment is in fire resistance. Shredders with wooden cabinets that require shredder oil can certainly be seen as a fire hazard. A new type of shredder was approved by the NSA that needs no oiling. This unit utilizes fiber spacers in the cutting head, instead of metal ones. This eliminates metal on metal friction, eliminating the need for oil. Better yet, this machine, the SEM Model 1201CC, also has a metal cabinet, addressing both fire risks.


A final area of concern is reparability when at sea. The most serious issue for crosscut paper shredders is damage to the cutting head. This type of damage has almost always required a vendor service technician to perform a major repair when in port, or the replacement of the machine. The SEM Model 1201CC has a cutting head that can be swapped out in minutes by ship personnel, with no special tools or skills. Spare cutting heads can be purchased and stored onboard, which can be especially useful when rolling out quantities of shredders throughout a ship.

Devices for destroying non-paper materials also offer some good choices for shipboard environments. Multi-media disintegrators that used to require large spaces can now be found in configurations that are similar to a standard office paper shredder. Yet, these machine allow the destruction of optical media, flash memory, key tape, and a wide range of plastic and light metal materials. One such machine is the Marine 200 disintegrator.

Marine 200

The choices in magnetic media degaussers have also grown, with some models especially good choices for placement on ships. In particular the newer, compact machines with fixed permanent magnets and manual operation are well sized to go onto a ship. Some of these can be rack mounted. The lack of electronic components makes them reliable and durable.

Careful market research can lead to better choices for secure destruction equipment for ships. It is worth the time.