Strong Seaports – Teaming Up to Step Up Safety and Security

By Lori Musser
Interim Editor
AAPA Seaports Magazine

Twentieth century window-dressing style port security efforts have gradually given way to thorough,thoughtfully designed and vigorous seaport situational awareness command and control programs. But not without a struggle. And the work to cultivate strong seaports continues.

The work has been made more difficult by the evolving definition of a safe and secure seaport. To harden ports as targets of terror and criminal activity is no longer enough. Today’s port must be well protected from a wide range of man-made and natural dangers, including those related to weather events and modal accidents, and especially from those dangers that have a broader impact on the environment, the community and the movement of trade and commerce.

In December 2011, protesters from Occupy, the international movement against social and economic inequality, attempted to obstruct ports along the U.S. west coast in an event called ‘Shutdown Wall Street on the Waterfront,’ and were reportedly successful in preventing some over-the-road access. On the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a grenade shaped belt buckle caused the evacuation of a cruise terminal in Tampa. In September 2008, Hurricane Ike slammed into the Port of Galveston, causing catastrophic damage, diverting ship traffic and creating a security dilemma. Ports in the western hemisphere face security and safety issues every day and most arenow well prepared to do so.

Some of the uncertain, knee-jerk changes to seaport security procedures and tools that occurred immediately following 9/11 have withstood the test of time and some haven’t. Some of the government agencies that regulate and assist ports in strengthening their security and safety have evolved as well, at times providing skilled guidance and much-needed cash infusions to help address security shortfalls, and at times hindering seaport efforts with rule changes, regulatory delays, spotty enforcement, indecision, general bureaucracy and a lack of available technologies and training programs.

Where the public sector is hard pressed to effectively address the monumental task of protecting ports and the through movement of people and cargo, industrious private firms have stepped up, developing, testing, marketing and implementing new products and services that are helping transportation providers and ports, and all those concerned with their protection.

Strong Seaports Collaborate

Strong seaports are those whose domains are well protected, integrating safety and security controls into every aspect of their operations while acting as good corporate citizens and continuing to offer cost-effective and efficient services to port users. Strong public seaports aren’t lackadaisical about development and investment either, despite competing needs for their scarce dollars, because withoutup-to-date facilities, a nation’s competitive position will erode and trade will head elsewhere.

In his opening comments at the July 2012 American Association of Port Authorities Port Security Seminar and Exposition, held in Miami, AAPA Executive Director Kurt Nagle said that safety and security challenges, “… continue to be a top priority not only for our port authorities, but also for our nations and for all of the entities represented by AAPA.” Those entities include a growing number of government agencies, supply chain colleagues and private firms.

During the seminar, participants spoke again and again of the value of collaboration on strategy, funding, relationships, intelligence and technological developments. Even the AAPA seminar itself falls into the category of information sharing. Hector Pesquera, the assistant port director for safety and security at PortMiami, said, “In cargo and cruise, competition may be cutthroat, but there is no competing whatsoever in the security arena. It is all based on mutual trust and respect.” Chris Scraba, Coast Guard Captain of the Port in Miami said, “Relationships and partnerships – that’s the key.” He said they help ensure the success of layered security strategies.

Compliance and Liability

Protecting a port and surrounding community from environmental hazards is a weighty responsibility. There are scores of regulations and numerous governmental agencies at all levels that can alternately help and hinder a port’s progress in safeguarding the environment.

In the U.S., Booz Allen Hamilton is a contractor supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Grant Programs Directorate. Marshall Popkin, an environmental consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton, spoke about Environmental Planning and Historic Preservation (EHP) compliance. The compliance process is intended to improve a project’s design, development and implementation by taking into consideration the impacts of a project to surrounding natural, cultural and historic resources. Popkin noted that all projects funded with U.S. federal grant dollars must be EHP compliant and be certified by the Grant Programs Directorate. He said, “My goal is to get funds that have been awarded to you as soon as possible.” If the EHP process is not followed correctly, a port risks having funding pulled.

In another effort to safeguard the U.S., in this instance from terror, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 created the Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002 (SAFETY Act). The SAFETY Act incentivizes the deployment of effective antiterrorism technologies and services by providing liability protections to ports and other enterprises.

Akmal Ali is principal of D.C.-based Catalyst Partners. He said that ports must protect themselves in order to protect the public. Following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 9/11 attacks, the private sector threatened the removal of their antiterrorism technologies and services from deployments due to the extraordinarily large liability exposure. Ali cited the case of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who, after being sued by more than 500 plaintiffs for $100 million in damages, was found 65 percent liable by the court.

According to Mr. Ali, the SAFETY Act is important for any product or service used for “preventing, detecting, identifying or deterring acts of terrorism or limiting the harm such acts might otherwise cause…”, including products such as detectors, sensors, cyber security software, intellectual property, apparel and mobile command centers, and those related to blast mitigation, decontamination, standards and situational awareness, among others. For ports, this means that most aspects of their security
investments are eligible.

The SAFETY Act helps protect ports, dramatically limiting liability, providing potential for annual insurance savings and offering flow-down liability protection. Companies selling approved products and services are listed on the Homeland Security website and are assigned a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) SAFETY Act seal.
Current Industry Trends

The 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 required, among other things, that by July 2012, 100 percent of all U.S.-bound cargo containers be scanned. Within DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection(CBP) is responsible for these screenings, and, unfortunately, still lacks the ability to check all inbound containers for items such as nuclear and radiological materials.

Cargo must be checked, but it may never be possible to physically inspect millions of containers each year without obstructing the global economy. The solution may be in risk-based screening, but technologies may still need to be developed to better handle this task, keeping us all safe and prosperous at the same time.

Since 9/11, maritime security science and technology has come a long way. Anh N. Duong, director of the DHS Borders and Maritime Security Division, Science and Technology Directorate, said that his group’s mission is to strengthen America’s security and resiliency by providing knowledge products and innovative technology solutions.

According to Mrs. Duong, the Directorate is intent on developing solutions to some of the most mind-boggling challenges, providing technical knowledge and solutions that address DHS operational capability gaps.

To keep U.S. ports secure and functioning has its challenges,including that of persistent wide-area surveillance for detecting, tracking and interdicting vessels, as well as electronic monitoringof security exclusion zones surrounding critical port infrastructure.

The Science and Technology Directorate aims to facilitate data and information sharing, to network existing open source databases and information services that provide first responders and others with maritime situational awareness, to develop new data and information sources, and to provide real-time situational awareness for the Department of Defense/DHS and other operational commands.

Supply chain security would improve with inexpensive, readilyavailable products, such as an improved container security device, a marine asset tag tracking system, an electronic chain-of-custody device and hybrid composite containers. Even with these solutions, providing cargo security without impeding commerce and without undue costs could prove a challenge, as might industry acceptance of improved security measures.

George F. Lerner, chief of police for the Port of Stockton, in California, agreed that a port’s primary physical security objective, of protecting against danger, damage, loss and crime, as well as complimentary objectives of regulatory compliance, sustainability, recovery, resiliency, continuity of operations and resumption of trade, are unachievable without good science and technology. But, he added, cost can interfere with the best-laid plans.

Louis A. Noriega, physical security technology consultant for Miami-based Automated Port Solutions, talked about the future of security in the IT world. He said that the situation today at most port command and control centers is ‘siloed systems’ that are unsynchronized, use manual procedures, and have limited situational awareness. Reporting is complex and success is difficult to measure. All this can lead to inefficient response and an overload of information. The introduction of a well-thought-out command and control center for situation management brings all-important situational awareness to the table.

The good news is, according to Mr. Noriega, that there are available and emerging technologies that can enhance seaport security operations and infrastructure in a cost effective manner. There is a security role for lower-tech activities, such as business permitting and credentialing, but what makes a difference today is integrating the low-tech and the high-tech. For example, access control supported by smart card readers, and devices to track commercial ground transportation vehicles, when integrated with other systems such as billing, credentialing, parking and cargo gatevehicle processing systems, provide an all-important link between security and business information.

Some of the emerging technologies that are proving important to ports include license plate recognition, non-intrusive gammaray or X-ray container scanning, mass notification systems during emergency situations for those personnel in the immediate vicinity or those employing mobile devices, web-protocol video management and analytics, integrated video solutions for perimeter protection with automatic advanced pan-tilt-zoom tracking, and wide-area (waterside) security systems that integrate radar, automatic identification systems and video data.

Special Security and Safety Challenges

The extent and variety of safety and security challenges addressed by ports in their everyday operations and activities can be staggering. Cyber threats, piracy, oil spills, executive detainment/ransoming, employee identity theft, bomb scares and hostage taking are just a few of the situations faced.

Each special challenge requires tailor-made planning and response capability. It may be difficult to believe that, on top of all these responsibilities, most ports still aim to be a good neighbor and community leader, and, in doing so, occasionally end up hosting or helping out with large community events.

Mark Dubina, director of security at the Tampa Port Authority, spoke at the July AAPA security seminar about security strategies for large events which pose specific challenges for ports. “Regardless of the event,” he said, “you’ve got to keep the port open.”

Events often require coordination with agencies that do not normally work in a port environment. Dubina, whose port was involved during the Republican National Convention held in Tampa earlier in the year, emphasized the importance of cultivating relationships with specific agencies and entities before the port ever needs to use them. He said, “The wrong time to be trading business cards is at a critical event. Take the time to make, build and maintain contacts over time.” Dubina said that flexible security plans, with contingencies such as alternate event sites, and excellent communication between all players, are critical. He cautioned that without a constant flow of information there is a risk of creating ‘information silos’ which can jeopardize event management and security alike.

Exceeding Community Expectations

Strong seaports exceed the expectations vested in them by their communities, and pro-actively address even the most intractable challenges to port safety and security.

Twenty-five years ago, a well-protected seaport in the Americas conducted criminal checks on workers, gated its facilities, spot checked cargo against manifests and had a crisis response plan on a shelf somewhere. Fast forward to 2013: safety and security are top of mind for every port executive.

This is definitely a new way of thinking, and ports can’t go it alone. They work collaboratively with governmental agencies, customers, supply-chain participants, private industry and communities, finding a sustainable equilibrium of vigilance and commerce.

To read the entire Winter 2012 issue of Seaports Magazine, click here.