Ports take advantage of federal funds

DHS grants allow ports to implement the latest security technologies

The Port of Los Angeles, located in San Pedro Bay, is Southern California's 7,500-acre gateway to international commerce. Throughout 43 miles of waterfront and 27 cargo terminals, almost 190 million metric revenue tons of cargo pass through the terminals annually.

As part of the nation's critical infrastructure, the Port of Los Angeles, and other ports throughout the country, are receiving money from the federal government to pay for upgrading security, which often includes use of the latest security technologies.

In May, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP) will offer $388.6 million to support sustainable, risk-based efforts to enhance access control and credentialing, protect against Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and other non-conventional attacks, and to conduct exercises for disaster-response scenarios. The grants are part of a total of $844 million in awards under the Infrastructure Protection Activities (IPA) grant program.

Including this year's funding, the department will have provided roughly $3 billion in grants for securing the nation's critical infrastructure and transportation systems, with nearly $1.5 billion of that in grants for ports since 2003.

The money is benefiting ports throughout the country, from the Port of Anchorage, Alaska, which will use $207,000 in federal grant money to improve its security command center, to Panama City, Fla., which will use $1.6 million to improve its security (see sidebar, page 17).

From Baltimore to Los Angeles, and at other ports in between, there is a focus on security, and available resources are making it possible to take advantage of the latest technologies to ensure top-of-the-line protection. This article will look at some of the technologies and how they are being implemented.

TWIC in L.A.

In 2003, when the Department of Transportation and U.S. Customs Service launched the "Operation Safe Commerce" program, the Port of Los Angeles started a relationship with Unisys Corp. to evaluate container security processes and global chain processes. Three years ago, Unisys, Blue Bell, Pa., signed on to be security advisor to the port.

Last year, the Port of L.A. released a request for proposal (RFP) asking for one organization to provide the port with field tests and management for the federal Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC) program. TWIC is a joint effort of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the U.S. Coast Guard to help secure the nation's maritime transportation system. The port chose Unisys, and, as of press time, the company is finishing phase one of a four-phase process to determine which systems and devices will fit the port's needs.

"The first phase is analysis and design, in which the objective is to analyze the port's business processes and evaluate objectives to help them identify what high-level of design they will need for TWIC," says Ted Langhoff, director of Unisys' cargo and port security practice. Later phases include: procurement of devices; field test and execution; and reporting the results of the field test.

Langhoff says the timetable for completing the phases is flexible, especially because TWIC is a security issue that has to be understood in the context of operations. "Technology is a key part of [this process], but it's important to understand how technology interacts with business processes. By analyzing operations, we can find a good foundation and a high-level of design that will best meet security objectives with the least impact on operations," Langhoff says.

Two other factors are also affecting the timing of the integration. Unisys is contracted to design and manage an identification and access control system, using smart card and biometric technologies, to identify workers who require access to restricted areas in the port. However, with TWIC's current rulings, visitors or transportation workers who are not necessarily employees of the port also require TWIC cards, which requires the port to decide how to register visiting truckers and other workers.

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