MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. -- It's not enough for the North Carolina state ports to move cargo. The lumber, rubber, phosphate and other products that come and go from the Morehead City and Wilmington terminals also have to make it through safely.
Security, particularly since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, is a big part of daily business, said Doug Campen, director of safety and security for the N.C. State Ports Authority.
"Our customers expect it. They are just as concerned about the safety of cargo as we are," Campen said.
To ensure its port facilities are secure and cargo protected, the Ports Authority has embarked on a major effort make security system upgrades at the Wilmington and Morehead City ports.
The Ports Authority Board of Directors recently approved a $6.43 million construction contract, and after more than two years of planning and design, work on the upgrades will begin soon.
Measures include fencing to enclose open perimeters of the ports, lighting, and cameras for monitoring property and detecting for potential intrusions. Plans also call for an industry-standard access-control system which will conform to federal requirements for a Transportation Worker Identification Credential card.
Campen said construction, which will be done by Johnson Controls Inc. of Charlotte, is expected to begin around Sept. 1. Federal grant funding will cover a bulk of the cost of the contract, with the Ports Authority paying about $700,000.
To date, the Ports Authority has received more than $7 million in grants through the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.
The first-round grant was used to perform a formal security assessment to identify the security needs to be addressed. After receiving additional grants, the Ports Authority hired C.H. Guernsey & Co., an engineering firm specializing in security system design.
Campen said the Ports Authority had a basic idea of what it needed and the design work provided the layout that determined specifics such as how many security cameras would be needed and where they should go.
As construction begins, the Ports Authority is looking ahead to additional projects and has applied for another round of grants. The latest request includes projects such as a radiation-detection system to inspect all containers entering and exiting the Port of Wilmington, a radar video surveillance system for waterside perimeters, an underwater intrusion detection system, and a law enforcement patrol vessel.
"We're really putting a focus on water-side security," Campen said of the latest grant application.
Campen said the security upgrades will help the two ports meet the requirements of the new federal Maritime Security Act, which took affect July 1, 2004.
And with the upgrades, the ports are also remaining competitive in a market where its customers have high expectations for security and safety.
The Ports Authority has a goal of "keeping the North Carolina ports competitive in the market and, unfortunately after Sept. 11, there are even greater security needs," Campen said.