Technology providers help seaports 'do more with less' on security front

by Paul Scott Abbott, Editor, AAPA Seaports Magazine

With the considerable evolution of technology over the near decade since the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2011, port officials are able to protect resources in highly effective, cost-efficient ways that would not have been readily available in pre-9/11 days.

Events such as the discovery in October of a plot that originated in Yemen to send bombs in toner cartridges shipped to the United States as air cargo have pointed up the frailty of the supply chain, the effectiveness of a combination of technology and intelligence, and the potential folly of kneejerk reactions -- such as a policy outlawing such air shipments of toner cartridges.

Leading providers to ports of security technology and training, in separate interviews with AAPA Seaports Magazine, noted how an integrated approach using networked solutions should give seaports what they need to protect facilities and meet U.S. Department of Homeland Security mandates without breaking the proverbial bank.

Integrated platforms emerge

"Over the past few years, port security programs have had to evolve into a 'do more with less' mode based on the declining market," according to Rob Hile, director of integrated security solutions in the Siemens Security Division of Siemens Industry Inc. "The end result has been a substantially reduced operational security budget coupled with the same or, in some cases, increased security risk."

Mr. Hile further noted the good news is that, over time, security programs have also evolved from a "fences, boots and guns" approach to a high-tech, integrated electronic security platform.

"The rapid advancements in electronic security technology have enabled the more proactive critical infrastructure organizations to stay ahead of the curve in terms of providing the required amount of security protection needed by their organizations," he said.

The Siemens unit led by Mr. Hile provides situational management, command-and-control, video analytics, mass notification and turnkey integration services to help critical infrastructure customers solve physical security challenges and increase overall business productivity, he said.

"What does the future hold?" Mr. Hile asked rhetorically, responding, "In my opinion, more of the same in terms of advancements in sensor technology, to include CBRN [chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear], LRAD [long-range acoustic device], radar, sonar, video analytics and other sensors that will all be readily deployed on an IP [Internet Protocol] network and, because of interoperable standards, be swiftly and easily incorporated into the overall situational awareness platform."

Mr. Hile said he believes the port industry will also see a proliferation of advanced physical security information management packages that will combine security and other important business process management tools under one umbrella, which, he said, "will only serve to make our customers' businesses more efficient, ultimately providing a healthy return on their investment."


Access, data-sharing enhanced

Integration, accessibility and scalability are the key drivers for port security technology, according to David Crawford, chief executive officer of LenSec LLC, a Houston-based provider of IP-based video surveillance solutions, including its Perspective Video Management System.

"Positive steps are already being made toward collaborative security," Mr. Crawford said. "New technologies with 100-percent Web interface improve accessibility for first responders, while intuitive archivemanagementmakes it easier to share data. Systems must be easy to expand and adapt as commercial traffic increases."

Mr. Crawford said global security challenges have never been greater, commenting, "Officials charged with monitoring trade and travel security have appropriately emphasized the importance of protecting ports, while facilitating traffic flow at these critical points of international commerce."

Achieving the balance of enhanced safety and traffic flow requires a cohesive security strategy and monitoring plan, he added. Through advances in security technologies, officials can better equip on-site security personnel to protect a larger area more consistently. Security systems must be efficient, easy-to-use and accessible to first responders during emergency events.


Behaviors now being monitored

Another Houston-based firm, BRS Labs Inc., previously known as Behavioral Recognition Systems Inc., is using its behavioral analysis system for video surveillance to adaptively learn behavior patterns in ports and other complex environments using closed-circuit camera feeds and thermal camera sensors in detection and notification of abnormal activities.

"Seaports are complex environments to secure, a maze of private and commercial vessel traffic spread across a myriad of shipping lanes, transportation and industrial distribution sites," said Lynn Welch, director of communications at BRS Labs, noting that seaports present a high-value target for terrorist activity.

The waterways themselves are not the only security challenge, she said, commenting, "Seaports encompass large terminal footprints dedicated to the receiving and distribution of massive amounts of consumable goods... To add to the challenge, many seaports are located in the heart of urban centers, creating additional requirements for urban intrusion detection capabilities and sophisticated interagency emergency response and communications requirements."

Seaport security will continue to evolve rapidly, driven by ongoing terrorism and criminal threats, requiring leading-edge networked solutions that knit together urban area security initiatives and interoperable airborne, seaborne and intelligent detection, identification and interdiction technologies, Ms. Welch said.


Waterside access remains concern

Latin American ports in particular, while having made great strides on the security front, have, in many cases, not paid enough attention to access control by water, said Herman Gómez, a Miami-based maritime seaport security consultant who served 25 years as director of the Port of Miami's security training, planning and development.

"I believe that the ports in Latin America have done a tremendous job trying to implement the ISPS [International Ship and Port Facility Security] Code," Mr. Gómez said. "However, there are many things that need to be done which would go toward a good security system to prevent the worst threat in the world, which is terrorism."

Mr. Gómez noted that master security plans for a number of ports still appear to lack sufficient detail as related to the ISPS Code, which has been in force since 2004. This, he said, is particularly true when it comes to plans of action for each identified threat level.


Mobile, real-time networks urged

Port security officials have one of the nation's most daunting tasks, according to Brian Geoghegan, executive vice president and chief product officer at Herndon, Va.-based Reality Mobile LLC, which provides ports with its trademarked RealityVision network for furnishing real-time secure sharing of dynamic video and data.

"Security teams must monitor sprawling facilities with multiple points of vulnerability, survey large areas spanning land and sea and cope with ever-changing conditions -- all with a limited number of personnel," Mr. Geoghegan said. "Additionally, complications posed by increasing DHS requirements, commercial interests concerned about the safety of their cargo and the ever-present threat of security breaches make advanced surveillance platforms and technologies that improve operational efficiency imperative."

The future of port security lies with having highlymobile, real-time video surveillance networks that fully leverage existing infrastructure and maximize the efficiency of available security manpower, Mr. Geoghegan said.Having the ability to view emergencies, accidents or breaches as they occur increases situational awareness, enhances security and improves emergency response.


Training plays essential role

The importance of appropriate port security training cannot be overemphasized. RalstonMacDonnell, president of Halifax, Nova Scotia-based MacDonnell Group Inc., which offers Web-based and instructor-led PortStar programs, noted that seaport security has evolved to be one of the top three issues in most ports.

"Maritime trade is so very important to our economy that any threat of interruption to supply chain activity must be detected early and halted," Mr. MacDonnell said. "The threats are real and need to be taken as so."

The proactive response of port, terminal and vessel operators, as well as leading vendors and government agencies, is helping contribute to standardization in the industry which will deliver efficiencies in operations, he said.

"Technology has played a big role; however, a good deal of the outcomes are mobilized by a trained, knowledgeable workforce," Mr.MacDonnell said. "The U.S. government has shown leadership by supporting these initiatives with the expansion of the Port Security Grant Program.

"Seaport security will continue to evolve as management integrates security needs into corporate and human resource management practices, as security initiatives are coordinated along the supply chain, and as planning shifts to business resumption planning for post-event activity," he said. "Integration of security procedures in ISO [International Organization for Standardization] systems and national training standards are some items that will contribute to our ability for a consistent, coordinated and efficient response to threats. The outcome will be an even-more-vigilant workforce that can contribute to the basic security need and overall operational efficiency."

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