The Progress of Port Security

April 1, 2004
New federal regulations have whipped the port security industry into a flurry of spending and development.
It is crunch time for the operators of waterfront facilities. By December 31, 2003, approximately 5,000 processing plants, terminals, warehouses and factories on waterways, coastlines and harbors throughout the United States were obligated to submit facility security plans to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), now part of the Department of Homeland Security. July 1, 2004 is the implementation date for provisions of the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, which in most ways parallel the provisions of the International Ship and Port Security Code (ISPS)—a whole new body of maritime law affecting maritime business all over the world.

The Maritime Transportation Security Act
The MTSA creates what is effectively a family of plans. Individual facility plans, evolving from facility security assessments, fit into larger, port-wide security plans called area maritime security plans, which detail the manner in which specific identified vulnerabilities will be addressed. Around the country, Harbor Security Committees composed of industry members and other stakeholders in the ports work to ensure smooth implementation of the plans.

The MTSA and ISPS have a few notable differences. Unlike the ISPS, the MTSA extends its jurisdiction to facilities on the water that may be receiving a wide variety of domestic vessels. The MTSA also mandates uniform biometric identification and background checks for maritime transportation workers, which ISPS doesn't require. This mandate goes hand-in-hand with similar provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 and the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001. To meet such provisions, the USCG, Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Maritime Administration began developing Transportation Worker Identification Cards (TWIC) that will eventually be required by an estimated 1 million workers to gain access to sensitive areas aboard vessels and shoreside.

The TSA is presently evaluating the results of pilot projects conducted at facilities in the Philadelphia and Los Angeles/Long Beach regions, in which a variety of TWIC prototypes were tested. In the summer of 2003, the TSA began issuing prototype cards developed by Maximus Corporation and subcontractors, with biometrics added in a second phase. This program expanded to include ports in Florida. The final card solution, which will likely take the form of a smart card, will include a biometric component and will be interoperable across the entire transportation infrastructure and with the seafarer ID cards now also in a test phase. The solution will also interface with watchlists of criminals and terrorists.

The MTSA requires planning for many security elements besides personnel identification, according to John Ochs, security manager at Pier 400 in Los Angeles, CA. “The USCG guidelines require each plan to discuss personnel identification, vehicle access control, perimeter fencing, alarm and communication systems and training. Various elements of the guidelines include very specific applications to vessel, gate/yard, or rail operations at the terminal,” said Ochs.

Still, the U.S. Coast Guard stresses that its regulations are flexible. Coast Guard spokesperson Jolie Shifflet explained, “Our regulations are performance based. We have identified the security goals and largely leave it up to the company to identify the best way to reach those goals.”

The Money Trail
The MTSA's voluminous regulations do not make for easy reading. However, security managers are not only reading the rules, they are placing orders. Many sectors of the marketplace have already benefited from spending at ports and terminals. As the operators of facilities rush to meet the July 1 deadline to avoid fines and shutdowns, vendors should see continued strong spending during the year.

The TSA has awarded grants to operators of ports and terminals primarily through three rounds: $92 million in June 2002, $170 million in June 2003, and $179 million in December 2003. Additionally, $75 million was awarded in April 2003 for security in urban areas, and $58 million was awarded in June 2003 under the Operation Safe Commerce (OSC) initiative. Tentatively, the Fiscal 2005 budget is allocating $46 million for more TSA grants. The first round funded a panoply of projects, while subsequent awards focused squarely on infrastructure security, including access control, surveillance and physical enhancements and hardening. Another DHS arm, The Office of Domestic Preparedness, has provided grant monies aimed at detecting weapons of mass destruction, but awards also fund purchases of communications equipment.

Even before the port security awards, waterways that were aware of vulnerabilities were taking a pro-active stance. In Spring 2002, the Panama Canal Authority, with 12,000 oceangoing vessel transits annually and numerous buildings along its 48-mile length, began a lengthy project with Honeywell's Security and Fire Solutions Group to install CCTV and access controls. The resulting integrated solution provides access control, digital video and asset tracking.

Once the TSA jumped into action, spending on port security ratcheted upward all over the country. The experience of Port Angeles, WA, shows how the grants funding has worked. In 2002, the port received $100,000 from the TSA for a vulnerability assessment and then crafted a proposal for addressing the identified vulnerabilities. Then, in Round 3 of the TSA grants, Port Angeles received nearly $400,000 for fencing and cameras. Another Washington port, Kalama (on the Columbia River), received $935,000 in Round 3, for fencing and surveillance. These two ports specialize in dry bulk cargo such as lumber and grains.

Further north, Valdez, AK, the spigot for Alaskan oil bound for the lower 48, became known as a hot spot when tanker traffic was halted in conjunction with the orange terror alert in late December 2003. Late last year, the City of Valdez completed the installation of a surveillance system employing infrared thermal imaging cameras that can detect motion through nasty weather and darkness in the port and in the tanker channel. Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) integrated the system.

The Valdez project, in the planning stages since late 2001, was fuelled by a Round 1 port security grant of $764,000, aided by contributions from the City of Valdez, its police department, the U.S. Coast Guard, the pipeline company, AT&T Alascom and Doyon Services, a local provider of numerous services including contract security.

Access Control
In ports like the Port of Seattle, where the major throughput is containers, access control and credentialing are major components of security plans. The port tapped ImageWare Systems, a vendor that already had a positive track record at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, to deploy its badging system at the port, beginning with the corporate headquarters. ImageWare's photo IDs, part of a larger administrative solution with capabilities to track badge expirations and link to an employee's data, have the ability to accommodate biometrics as well. The Port of Seattle was also a test bed for the privately funded Smart and Secure Tradelanes (SST) project—RFID seals from Savi Technology were tested on containers inbound from the Far East.

Oakland, CA, ranked fourth among U.S. ports in terms of annual container throughput, is implementing a $4.75 million project with ADT Security Services and its sister company, Earth Tech. The project will take a three-pronged approach consisting of a card-based access control system, a video surveillance system with cameras at 10 terminals, and an intrusion detection system at perimeter fences. The entire system is tied together through a Web-enabled remote management capability.

Sometimes the perimeter is at the water, as is the case in Corpus Christi, TX, which imports oil from the Middle East, Africa and South America. There, a well-known integrator, Adesta, which had dealt with maritime matters through work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has built a “virtual border around the port” using an intrusion detection system from Atlanta-based VistaScape. The application uses VistaScape's Security Data Management System, which combines multiple inputs (from video cameras, sensors and radar) on one screen at a central monitoring station. The system can immediately open up a streaming video feed from the location at which a potential incursion has taken place. The investment will be funded from a nearly $2 million grant from the TSA.

Nearby, in Houston, BAE Systems received a $3.7 million contract (funded by the $75 million urban port security monies) to build a command center, linking together systems throughout the Port of Houston Authority. Houston is a vast port, active in bulk and container trades, with both public and private facilities. Its security assessment (funded by Round 1 grant money) cost approximately $300,000.

Cargo Management
Cargo screening and monitoring are also important facets of port security. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP)—another DHS agency—has installed gamma ray imaging equipment at the larger terminals, with SAIC playing a leadership role.

At the Port of New York/New Jersey, the implementation of the Operation Safe Commerce program is aimed mainly at container shipping. ADT Security Services is playing a role as a part of a consortium that will offer capabilities similar to those of its Oakland implementation. An East Coast version of the SST project had looked at the container-tracking piece of this puzzle, using RFID technology on boxes brought in from Rotterdam/Antwerp.

The Port of New York/New Jersey also received an $850,000 grant from the TSA to help develop an acoustic technology originated by startup Greene Rees Technologies LLC. Similar to ultrasound, the technology is actually ultra-wide-band radar that will be used to develop signatures of cargo container contents in the East Coast hub. The backscatter analysis can be compared against a database of known material signatures, allowing personnel to identify container contents without disturbing the containers themselves.

Market Development
Port security is clearly moving in the direction of high-tech. The number of technology companies entering the maritime market can attest to that. Two vendors in particular—Ingersoll Rand Security and Safety Solutions and ObjectVideo—have been active in pursuing port security business throughout the country. IR Recognition Systems' HandReader products (which can capture information about the geometry of a person's hand and compare it against a database of templates to determine access authorization) have been gaining business in the airport sector. They have also been penetrating the access control market at port facilities.

ObjectVideo, with a strong track record in military sales, supercharges conventional video surveillance with computer vision, using artificial intelligence on a digitally enhanced video for detecting motion around the perimeter of a vessel. Rules-based alerts can also be created. ObjectVideo's Video Early Warning (VEW) system has been used by customs and border patrol to prevent intrusion at ports in Washingon State.

In 2003, as new regulations were promulgated, the Coast Guard estimated that an aggregate of $1 billion would be spent initially, and $500 million on a yearly basis, for facility security in the United States. The comments of the affected industry, prior to implementation, suggest that these numbers fall far short of true expenditures required. The correct number will never be known precisely. But, whatever it is, the protection of ports and waterfront facilities represents an important new revenue stream for the security industry.

Barry Parker is a New York-based consultant concentrating on maritime business and maritime security. His clients include financial institutions, cargo interests and shipowners. Working on behalf of a maritime client, he recently spearheaded a TSA-funded effort in which merchant vessels inbound to the Port of New York & New Jersey were tracked electronically using GPS technology. Mr. Parker can be reached at [email protected].