An aerial view of Port Fourchon in Louisiana.
Photo credit: (Photo courtesy portfourchon.com)
Securing the nation’s seaports has been one of the top priorities of the Department of Homeland Security since its creation following the 9/11 terror attacks. In fact, through the implementation of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program, the government has regulated who can and cannot have access to U.S. ports of entry. Unauthorized entry by terrorists or other criminals is still a primary concern, however, and the installation of newer, more advanced perimeter security systems has become a necessity.
The Greater Lafourche Port Commission in Louisiana recently partnered with systems integration firm Crescent Guardian, Inc. (CGI), to install a best-of-breed of video surveillance system at Port Fourchon, which is located at the base of the Mississippi River on the Gulf of Mexico.
CGI, which began work on the project in October, has installed 51 surveillance cameras at the port and has begun deploying analytics in the first phase of the installation on 25 of them. The port is using BRS Labs behavior recognition software, which unlike other rules-based video analytics software, has the ability to "learn" what is normal or routine activity within a field-of-view and can then trigger an alert when something out of the ordinary is captured on video.
The scope of the port’s new surveillance system goes beyond just the installation of a few cameras with advanced analytics, according to Ray Cavanagh, vice president of sales at CGI.
"It’s actually a full blown maritime awareness system," explained Cavanagh. "This was funded in part by the Port Security Grant Program and it incorporates a wireless mesh network, the video components which are fed through a video management system and then feeds into kind of an overarching video security system."
In addition to BRS Labs analytics software, CGI had several other technology partners for the project including Milestone which provided the video management system component, as well as Axis which provided cameras. All of these different components, the cameras, VMS, analytics and a command and control platform from Priority 5 were combined to create what the port is calling its Maritime Domain Awareness System or GLPC-C4.
The port, which encompasses a tremendously large area, wanted a system that could be centrally integrated to help deal with a variety of threats.
"As you can imagine when you’re in a port environment, because of the types of weather conditions that you have to handle; you’ve got fog, you’ve got hurricanes, heavy winds and so forth," he said. "So having a command and control system, which is what the port incorporates, has analytic pieces, a video management systems and all of that tied into a common command and control center that gives them an overarching security view."
From a technical perspective, Cavanagh said that integrating the different parts of the video systems together were not that difficult.
"Frankly, technically it really wasn’t that difficult. Most of these (systems), the analytics piece, and the VMS piece are plug-and-play," he said. "It’s an ongoing process because you’ve got the video component, the VMS component, you’ve got the analytics component, all of those feed into the command and control system so every step of the way you have to make sure those components are interoperating correctly. We held weekly meetings to make sure that everything was running smoothly, and even though there is a little bit of work that needs to be done in terms of setting the cameras and getting them lined up into the software and so forth, it was really relatively seamless."
In his opinion, Cavanagh said the integration of this video surveillance system at Port Fourchon could be held as a "model" for what other port security systems architectures should look like. Indeed, Cavanagh said that officials from other ports have taken ideas from the Port Fourchon project to incorporate into perimeter security installations at their own facilities.
"I’ve been involved in a lot of projects of this size and scope and the people at the port, particularly the IT director, April Danos, they just did a spectacular job in terms of working with the vendors, giving clear direction, identifying what needed to be done and when, and then hitting those goals," he said.