Technology Tackles Security Imperative

In separate interviews with AAPA Seaports Magazine, executives of leading suppliers of port security technology – each an exhibitor at the American Association of Port Authorities’ Port Security Seminar and Exposition held July 18-19, 2012, in Miami – shared their insights on the current and future roles of high-tech solutions to the port security imperative.

Non-Intrusive, Quick, Accurate Cargo Inspections

Ethan Butler, director of programs for Massachusetts-based Passport Systems, Inc., said that, as is the case with many complex goals, “Securing safe seaports is the responsibility of many. Ports,terminal operators, vessel operators, government agencies and the entire maritime community work together to ensure workplace and cargo handling safety, and to prevent any hazardous materials from passing through the port.”

Butler, whose firm’s advanced inspection scanning technology aims to help customs and border protection services throughout the hemisphere zero in on uninvited cargo, said, “Passport’s technology has culminated in a revolutionary high-energy X-ray scanner which automatically finds threats and contraband based on chemical composition, not just on appearance.” He added, “In less than two minutes, a 75-foot truck can be scanned using an automated anomaly-detection process that effectively divides the container into tens of thousands of individual volumes about the size of a baseball. If an anomaly is detected in any of these volumes, a further analysis is performed which identifies the anomaly without opening the cargo. The material identification capability is so powerful, it can even distinguish between plastic and plastic explosives behind several inches of steel.”

Speedy inspection methods that don’t damage or disturb goods help keep the cost of logistics down, ultimately benefiting consumers. Technologies that can automatically detect, identify, and pinpoint nuclear materials, explosives, hazardous chemicals, and contraband, for verification against the cargo manifests, are a welcome development in the quest for securing seaports.

Perimeter Surveillance Made Easy

Long-range perimeter surveillance is a new undertaking for many ports and maritime operations. Josh Howlett, North American sales manager for HGH-Infrared Systems, described the IR Revolution™ 360 as a tool built for persistent, passive perimeter security. It uses infrared technology to produce live, 360-degree imaging and to detect and track intrusion.

Howlett said, “Long-range perimeter surveillance is conventionally accomplished with single or multiple-aperture imaging systems combined with radar and/or with perimeter intrusion detection system hardware. HGH-Infrared has successfully combined all of those functionalities into one highly effective, passive solution.”

Traditional radar looking for large, symmetrical threats can sometimes miss smaller wooden or rubber crafts, and pantilt-zoom camera systems are limited to their specific fields-of-view. Howlett said, “Maritime and port security operations are increasingly faced with unusual attacks and threats, such as the improvised watercraft used by pirates in West Africa. The IR Revolution™ 360 can detect these as well as provide high definition thermal imaging, in all directions, simultaneously.”

Addressing the difficulties in imaging due to severe weather at sea, Howlett said, “Our long-wave infrared sensors are not affected by fog and precipitation and provide 12-megapixel imaging 24/7. The IR 360 has been thoroughly ‘ruggedized,’ allowing it to be successfully installed in the harshest environments.”

Technology Must Play as a Team

Anthony Incorvati, business development manager for the transportation sector at Axis Communications, said, “Securing seaports takes a coordinated team effort – and that shouldn’t stop at the human element. Technology must play as a team, too.”

Internet protocol (IP) video surveillance based on an open technology platform epitomizes the idea of shared responsibility and Axis wants to drive the shift from analog to digital video surveillance in order to, according to its corporate tagline, create a smarter, safer and more secure world. Incorvati said, “As opposed to the dying world of analog closed circuit television, where security users were stuck with proprietary, rigid systems, digital IP video is all about delivering best-in-class, enabling technology to suit each port’s particular security goals.”

Ports present unique surveillance challenges. Providing 24- hour security, in conditions that sometimes include low to no light, extreme reflection off water and glass, and constant water and vessel movement, is difficult. Incorvati suggested that an experienced surveillance integrator and/or consultant can help identify potential problem zones and can tailor a solution. Technologies are available to read the text off a ship from more than a mile away during the day, to minimize the havoc wreaked by shadows and reflections coming from the water, and to produce a color picture at night.

Better Equipping Security Sentinels

Steve Dryden is president and CEO at The Mariner Group, LLC. He said that if a typical teenager can have constant knowledge of their friends’ locations, activities and the next house party address, port safety, security and operations personnel can too. “There are fundamental shifts in the interactions among individuals and groups enabled by near-ubiquitous real-time technology. The proliferation of mobile computing, location-based services and social networking creates an extraordinary opportunity to not only help teenagers get to a party on time, but more importantly, help provide real-time situational awareness to secure our seaports,” he said.

The maritime security community can harness these trends, continually expanding their ‘community of interest’ while connecting current processes, systems, and sensors, to deliver effective maritime domain awareness and automated response.

Connecting all the available dots is no easy task. To protect vital infrastructure and key resources, ports must collect, integrate and share detailed information about specified infrastructure assets. The payoff, however, is beyond price – to protect lives and property, maintain order, speed up recovery of essential services, and avoid cascading disruption of other infrastructure and key resources. The Mariner Group’s CommandBridge™, according to Dryden, equips maritime security with a software platform that marries multiple systems such video, radar, automatic identification systems, geographic information systems and charts, and additional databases, along with automation-enabled standard operating procedures and emergency response plans that generate tasking assignments and alerts to specified individuals. These functions can be used for live situation awareness and response management, as well as for training and operational exercise plans. Real-time incident collaboration between stakeholders, first responders, and other pertinent state and federal agencies can be achieved.

3-D Real-Time Sonar Imaging – Seeing is Believing!

Ports have traditionally depended on divers for underwater inspections; but now, real-time three-dimensional (3-D) sonars are proving valuable in harbors and channels. They have dramatically improved image clarity and resolution in even the most demanding acoustic environment. Mike Agor, head of U.S. operations for Lakeland, Fla.-based Coda Octopus Products Incorporated, said “Real-time 3-D imaging sonars like our Echoscope® significantly reduce the time to find and identify perceived threats and enable ports to confidently maintain secure operations.”

Ports need an uninterrupted flow of commerce. An underwater threat or attack is likely to stop port operations, leading to major losses, financial and otherwise. Today, hand-over-hand underwater inspections by divers are supplemented by sonar imaging, which allow a perceived underwater improvised explosive device, for example, to be surveyed with confidence in minutes (as compared to several hours manually). Immediate action can then be taken to remove the threat and a visual data product will be at hand for further analysis.

With reduced fiscal resources and the ever-present threat to underwater security, ports require more efficient and confident survey methods. 3-D real-time sonars allow a port to conduct routine detailed surveys of critical infrastructure, identify parasitic devices on vessel hulls and other underwater threats, and confidently map submerged hazards to navigation. They can also provide real-time 3-D camera views in zero-visibility conditions.

High Tech Meets Low Tech

Canines that specialize in scent detection have been an important element in the toolkit to safeguard ports for decades.

Merrills Detector Dog Services provides ports across the U.S. and beyond with canine (K9) teams ready to deploy on a moment’s notice.

Katherine Heselton, K9 supervisor for the Detector Dog Service of Georgetown, South Carolina-based Merrill’s Investigations, said, “Our K9 teams train daily, performing checks on vehicles, luggage, packages, lockers and all modes of transportation, and conducting area and building perimeter searches. We keep at the ready by constantly challenging not only the K9 but the handler with various exercises and mock scenarios.”

As with many security suppliers, canine handlers often come from extensive law enforcement backgrounds, giving them an advantage when reacting to a critical incident.

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