Port of Dover Installs Secure Access Control

The harbor at Dover has been in constant use for cross-channel traffic since the Bronze Age, with a lighthouse built by the Romans still visible on the cliffs to the east of town. Dover Harbour Board was established by King James I in 1606 and is...


The previous access control cards were collected for re-use when they expired. The motorised readers did this very well; they simply kept expired cards, which could then be collected and re- issued. The annual budget was for 5,000 replacement visitor cards, and it was calculated that on average, a visitor pass card was reused three times. Most went out only twice, and none did more than 20 trips. The benefit of the magstripe cards was their cheapness and, with the motorised readers, their ability to be re-collected.

Running costs for the new system needed to be in line with the costs of the old operation. The system needed to feel secure to users, and it had to offer reusable cards. The project team wanted more than just a good replacement system; they wanted a system that offered extendibility and integration. They needed a system that could provide access control now with the option of adding other functions, such as time-and-attendance and cashless vending, at a later date. They also wanted other areas where services were provided, such as in the Cruise Terminals and in the Marina, to run with the same technology.

The Move to Contactless
Having evaluated all of the above, the project team were faced with two options: to remain with a contact-based system or move to a contactless smart card system. Moving to a high-coercivity magstripe system would have addressed the problem of accidental erasures, but the read/write unit failure and the high level of maintenance attention would have continued. This pointed them in the direction of contactless technology. Since proximity readers have no moving parts, they are more robust. There would be no erasure problems, and smart cards can have a life of 50,000 uses.

A visit to the IFSEC Security Solutions show introduced the team to several suppliers offering integrated solutions, and five were invited to tender. After evaluation of the tenders, First City Care was chosen to supply software from Geoffrey Industries, since it met the port's functional and technical requirements. Legic was selected to supply the RFID smart card technology, since it offered the best value and it was available in formats that gave the project team the flexibility they required.

The port also decided to become a Legic License Partner. The coding of a Legic smart chip involves the use of a master code, and as a licence partner the port would hold its own master code. This made them independent when it came to developing card use for purposes other than access control.

With all the major issues sorted out, work could begin. Access would have to operate with both old and new readers during the phased installation of the new system. Two pass stations for new passes were set up, and one for magstripe cards to copy data from old passes to new. The initial aim was to issue 200 passes a day, and within two months 8,000 new passes had been issued. Meanwhile, new readers and reader controllers were installed by First City Care, and Dover Harbour Board took care of the cabling. Doors, pedestrian turnstiles and all the vehicle gates soon followed.

Success Story
Project team leader for Implementation Debbie Lawther commented, "We're delighted with our new access control system. Running costs are lessening, management reporting is more accessible, and maintenance is easier, quicker and cheaper."

"We've lost the automatic collection of visitor passes we had with the old magstripe system, but the voluntary return process is working very well. We've had a visitor pass being used an average of 8.3 times, with one card making 39 trips! And even if a pass is lost it cannot be re- used because of the control in the software as well as the image of the holder."

So what of the future? There are a lot of possibilities, said Lawther. "The time-and-attendance project is considering use of the contactless cards; and our security staff is investigating the use of hand-held card monitors. We may extend the access control system to other areas of the port, both buildings and for car and lorry parking, and we could introduce cashless vending for staff in the canteen.

"Our major customers, the ferry operators, have shown interest in sharing our smart cards, so staff would need to carry only one pass and we could use the system for building security for our tenants. All these applications will need cost-justifying business cases and budget approval, but the project team is sure that with our new contactless smart card technology from Legic we've provided the basis for the Port of Dover to have security of access control for a long time to come."