Starting From Scratch for Security at North Carolina Ports

Port of Wilmington, N.C., uses video for perimeter security system, pulls together smart card access with biometrics

The owner had considered combining the virtual perimeter technology with fence sensors or vibration detectors, but they decided they'd prefer to have a single technology running consistently over the entire perimeter. Marlow said the owner also liked the idea of a movable perimeter. "Cameras are pretty flexible because you can move them and change them, whereas a hard-line system is a little more difficult to change. So I think it gave them more flexibility for the future," he said.

"This technology is new for the designer, it's new for the contractor, and I think all three of us were in a learning curve. I'd seen this product work, I'd seen the demos, but until you get it in your hands and start working with it there's a lot to learn. There's a lot of tweaking and tuning you have to do to this technology, but once it's in place, I don't think there's anything to beat it at this point," added Campen.

Working With an Emerging Standard

One of the biggest access control challenges for this installation was dealing with the emerging Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) standard, with which the port will have to comply once it reaches its final form. The problem is, the standard is still in flux, and no one knows exactly what that final form will look like.

"Every month they say, we're close to finalizing it, and I've heard that for a year and a half now," said Marlow. "I've even gone to the TWIC committee in DC and sat in on some of their meetings, participated in group discussions, and it's like they can't quite get to the point of finishing it. It's just frustrating. So we took the stance, let's determine at a 10,000-foot view, what would be the most flexible approach to this so we can capture the direction we think they're going, and give the port the ability to have this technology so they don't have to go back and reinvent the wheel or make a major investment to bring it up to TWIC standards later."

The project ended up specifying a combination of HID and Bioscrypt readers, with HID iClass cards. This combination can provide two-level authentication-biometric and proximity-that should put the port on the right road to future TWIC compliance.

Beyond TWIC, the specification required fault-tolerant servers, which led Guernsey to Johnson Controls' CardKey P2000. "It's got four processors, four hard drives, it's a 99.9 percent uptime machine," said Abts. "We looked at another system for using it with that type of a setup, and the only way they could do it was with two machines running in parallel and then having to bridge between a master server. Our system had been tested with this fault-tolerant setup, which is fairly unique. It's enterprise in that there's a master server and regional servers, but the regional servers are fault tolerant."

Mirrored Ports

While all these changes were happening in Wilmington, a very similar system was being implemented about 100 miles northeast at the Port of Morehead City, Wilmington's sister facility, and the goal of the project was to connect the two together.

Marlow explained, "They're connected via a T1 network. We designed the system so they could monitor and control everything from either port. So if they have a hurricane or a disaster, they could basically shut one port down from a security technology standpoint and monitor everything at the other port."

"We've got two control rooms, we've got a single enterprise access control system that mirrors info from one location to the next, so they can use a card at either place," said Abts. "And in addition, we installed a wireless network out on the berthing area, and we have what amounts to a mobile command unit. Anywhere in this wireless network area they can have this mobile command unit and have full access to everything that's on the network -- video, access control, and visitor management. So for people who come off a ship, they can issue them a badge right there before they even leave the dockside," he continued.

A Welcome Solution

You might think that the security officers at the ports would be overwhelmed with all this technology. After all, they moved pretty quickly from little more than foot patrols to intelligent video and mobile command. But Campen proudly relates that his staff was mostly positive about the changes, and anxious to learn.