The Progress of Port Security

New federal regulations have whipped the port security industry into a flurry of spending and development.


The TSA has awarded grants to operators of ports and terminals primarily through three rounds: $92 million in June 2002, $170 million in June 2003, and $179 million in December 2003. Additionally, $75 million was awarded in April 2003 for security in urban areas, and $58 million was awarded in June 2003 under the Operation Safe Commerce (OSC) initiative. Tentatively, the Fiscal 2005 budget is allocating $46 million for more TSA grants. The first round funded a panoply of projects, while subsequent awards focused squarely on infrastructure security, including access control, surveillance and physical enhancements and hardening. Another DHS arm, The Office of Domestic Preparedness, has provided grant monies aimed at detecting weapons of mass destruction, but awards also fund purchases of communications equipment.

Even before the port security awards, waterways that were aware of vulnerabilities were taking a pro-active stance. In Spring 2002, the Panama Canal Authority, with 12,000 oceangoing vessel transits annually and numerous buildings along its 48-mile length, began a lengthy project with Honeywell's Security and Fire Solutions Group to install CCTV and access controls. The resulting integrated solution provides access control, digital video and asset tracking.

Once the TSA jumped into action, spending on port security ratcheted upward all over the country. The experience of Port Angeles, WA, shows how the grants funding has worked. In 2002, the port received $100,000 from the TSA for a vulnerability assessment and then crafted a proposal for addressing the identified vulnerabilities. Then, in Round 3 of the TSA grants, Port Angeles received nearly $400,000 for fencing and cameras. Another Washington port, Kalama (on the Columbia River), received $935,000 in Round 3, for fencing and surveillance. These two ports specialize in dry bulk cargo such as lumber and grains.

Further north, Valdez, AK, the spigot for Alaskan oil bound for the lower 48, became known as a hot spot when tanker traffic was halted in conjunction with the orange terror alert in late December 2003. Late last year, the City of Valdez completed the installation of a surveillance system employing infrared thermal imaging cameras that can detect motion through nasty weather and darkness in the port and in the tanker channel. Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) integrated the system.

The Valdez project, in the planning stages since late 2001, was fuelled by a Round 1 port security grant of $764,000, aided by contributions from the City of Valdez, its police department, the U.S. Coast Guard, the pipeline company, AT&T Alascom and Doyon Services, a local provider of numerous services including contract security.

Access Control
In ports like the Port of Seattle, where the major throughput is containers, access control and credentialing are major components of security plans. The port tapped ImageWare Systems, a vendor that already had a positive track record at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, to deploy its badging system at the port, beginning with the corporate headquarters. ImageWare's photo IDs, part of a larger administrative solution with capabilities to track badge expirations and link to an employee's data, have the ability to accommodate biometrics as well. The Port of Seattle was also a test bed for the privately funded Smart and Secure Tradelanes (SST) project—RFID seals from Savi Technology were tested on containers inbound from the Far East.

Oakland, CA, ranked fourth among U.S. ports in terms of annual container throughput, is implementing a $4.75 million project with ADT Security Services and its sister company, Earth Tech. The project will take a three-pronged approach consisting of a card-based access control system, a video surveillance system with cameras at 10 terminals, and an intrusion detection system at perimeter fences. The entire system is tied together through a Web-enabled remote management capability.

Sometimes the perimeter is at the water, as is the case in Corpus Christi, TX, which imports oil from the Middle East, Africa and South America. There, a well-known integrator, Adesta, which had dealt with maritime matters through work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has built a “virtual border around the port” using an intrusion detection system from Atlanta-based VistaScape. The application uses VistaScape's Security Data Management System, which combines multiple inputs (from video cameras, sensors and radar) on one screen at a central monitoring station. The system can immediately open up a streaming video feed from the location at which a potential incursion has taken place. The investment will be funded from a nearly $2 million grant from the TSA.