Security at the Port of Rotterdam

Sometimes it's easy to get caught up thinking that port security has to do with worker access control and long-range thermal cameras to spot threats. Sometimes, it's more about compliance with the IMO (International Maritime Organization) and dealing with...

Unloading a container ship at Port of Rotterdam, photo by Geoff Kohl

4. Implementing an X-ray based cargo container screening system that can scan up to 150 containers an hour. Of course, it takes longer to analyze those scans, but the time is implied to be less than the current time requirement of 10-15 minutes per analysis. That helps spot things inside these metal containers, and identifies which suspicious containers need an actual "open-the-doors" hand inspection. Containers would be scanned individually based on risk levels after being unloaded from ocean going ships (photo above).

Rotterdam Regional Fire Dept. Chief of Safety and Operations Sjaak Seen. Photo by G.Kohl.

5. Planning for a future where they'll be tracking not just vessels, but the cargo. "In the future, we want to know exactly where the cargo is, how much there is, and how risky it is," explains Rotterdam area fire department's Chief of Safety and Operations Sjaak Seen (pictured). He notes that the city of Rotterdam is closely integrated with port operations. Indeed, you will see sea-going vessels pass through locks just a stone's throw from some of the city's better known parks and restaurants.

VSTEP CTO Pjotr van Schothorst develops simulation exercises for safety and security operators at Rotterdam's port. Photo by G. Kohl.

6. Innovative training. One of the things that port security and fire units have done is use technology from VSTEP, a Rotterdam-based company that developed a video game style of incident training (pictured is the company's CTO Pjotr van Schothorst). The games look like port version of Halo 3, with explosions blasting from tanker vessels. Unlike the trigger-happy versions of games on your PlayStation, however, these games teach incident control, communications and collaboration. They're even rolling out a multi-player version this year so you can put the head of security at one controller and the head of fire at another and the harbor master's team at another and get real-time interaction. Best of all, if the team is doing too well at one exercise, the instructor can easily toss in an additional event into th mix, like a simulated terrorist attack, to raise stress levels and broaden response needs.

Port of Rotterdam control center. Photo by G. Kohl

7. Unifying everyone for an emergency. The Port Authority links with customs, port police, mayors of towns around the port, the regional fire department, the port's unified fire department, company representatives and other important officials in the case of an incident. A well-planned emergency strategy center features video and audio conferencing and space for key emergency management representatives. Data from the Port Authority's command center (pictured) is also linked to the port police force (the guys with the guns for when heavy-duty enforcement is needed).

All photos (c) 2009 by Geoff Kohl