Security experts consider seaports to be prime targets for a terrorist attack. The direct consequences of a successful attack are likely to include a significant interruption in commerce, and economic shockwaves would undoubtedly ripple throughout the nation’s economy in the months and years to follow. Security at the nation’s ports, therefore, has been recognized as critical to maintaining local employment, the regional tax base and commerce infrastructure.
The challenge of protecting these vast facilities is complex, and the sheer volume of purported technology solutions supporting their mission is overwhelming. Security technologies, no matter how dynamic, cannot by themselves appropriately address complex operational, physical and domain awareness needs. Successfully meeting the complex port security challenge requires not only dedicated stakeholders and a keen awareness of every aspect of the port domain, but a well-developed and executed plan to leverage every available resource.
In southern California, the Port of Long Beach has created and executed a comprehensive technology program combining symbiotic partnerships among port stakeholders supported by best-of-breed companies and technologies. Review of the Port’s model approach and highlighting their successes can provide every critical infrastructure security team with valuable information applicable to their security issues no matter the scale.
The Complex Challenge
The second busiest port in the United States, The Port of Long Beach is situated on the equivalent of more than 2,400 football fields woven into the downtown district of one of California’s largest cities. In 2008, the Port’s 80 berths and 71 cranes facilitated the delivery of more than 87 million metric tons of cargo. Roughly 5,300 vessels carrying more than 7.3 million containers (nearly 20,000 per day) moved goods valued at more than $140 billion. These impressive throughput numbers are matched by the employment and tax contributions to the regional economy. The Port is responsible for one out of every eight jobs locally (30,000) and one in 22 jobs within the southern California region (316,000). Approximately 1.4 million jobs nationally are related to Port of Long Beach activity. Port-related trade generates about $4.9 billion per year in local, state and federal taxes.
Facilitating transit of the large volume of cargo requires easy access from land and sea. The open-use nature of the public harbor and necessary access to nearby attractions are unavoidable. Easy landside and waterside access via cruise terminals, ferries, boat launches, beaches, tourist hot spots and transportation corridors complicates the security challenge. The port essentially has no control over most of these realities and must incorporate them into its security program.
The potential impact of an undesired “worst-case” event on the surrounding community adds even more reliance on the success of the security program. Nearby tourist destinations draw 3 million people annually. On any given day, the population in the immediately adjacent downtown Long Beach area can exceed 1 million. Every day, more than 8 million people occupy the 25-mile zone surrounding the port. The population of the City of Los Angeles, by comparison, is more than 4 million. To underscore the importance of meeting the complex security challenge at the Port of Long Beach, potential financial losses associated with Port closure due to a terrorist attack are estimated at $1 billion per day.