NY-NJ Port Authority Tests Cargo Tracking Devices

$5M tracking system would detect breaches in containers as they travel to America


Mar. 8--With business booming more than ever before at the Port of New York and New Jersey, state officials are taking steps to make it less attractive to terrorists.

The Port Authority is testing a $5 million tracking system that would detect breaches in cargo containers as they travel to America, the agency announced Tuesday.

With a United Arab Emirates company poised to take partial control of Port Newark operations, the authority also will create a "security task force" that will study ways to safeguard the nation's third-busiest port from infiltration.

The 11-member panel -- headed by Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia and mostly composed of business executives -- will develop recommendations within six months, officials said.

Governor Corzine -- joining Port Authority officials at a Port Elizabeth news conference Tuesday -- said it's time to add security layers to a port that produced a record cargo value of $132 billion last year.

"We have to speak up and make sure the public is secure," Corzine said.

Corzine and Port Authority officials, however, emphasized that the initiatives have been in the works for months -- long before the sale of port operations to Dubai Ports World caused a public uproar. The sale is on hold since the Bush administration -- which initially approved the deal -- bowed to public pressure and launched a 45-day review.

"With that kind of growth comes the responsibility to provide security and to not allow that chain of distribution to be used for improper purposes," Coscia said.

Corzine and the Port Authority said they're still moving forward with efforts to block the sale -- noting that Dubai, one of six emirates in the UAE, was home to two of the 9/11 hijackers and a transfer point for at least some of the money used to finance the attacks.

Both Corzine and the agency have sued to block the company from taking 50-percent control of the Port Newark Container Terminal. The Port Authority heads to state Superior Court in Essex County on Thursday to try to terminate a 30-year lease with the companies that operate Port Newark.

Safeguarding the ports, however, requires government oversight and the establishment of a technologically enhanced tracking system that serves as a "first step, not an end," Corzine said.

Using funds from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the authority launched a pilot test of the technology on approximately 26 containers -- most of which are from Germany, and a few from Jordan -- that are scheduled to arrive at Port Newark on Monday.

Each of the containers -- containing paper products and heating equipment, among other things -- include a black-box-type tracking unit that's installed on the door, said Randall Shepard, chief operator officer for the manufacturer, Impeva Labs of Mountain View, Calif.

Satellites monitor the container's position using data from five sensors in the tracking unit. A signal is sent to officials at the Port of New York and New Jersey when a door has been opened, whether light has entered the container or if traces of radiation or carbon monoxide exist.

If the test is successful, the technology could be expanded to monitor up to 1,000 containers from March through October, said authority spokesman Steve Coleman.

The governor said the black box looked like "a burglar alarm."

"It's a great idea," he said. "This is an interim process."