Virtual Port Concept Powers Unique Security Project

Dec. 21, 2015
Port of Long Beach search for world class management solution takes coordinated multi-agency effort to succeed

Port Description

The Port of Long Beach (POLB) is one of America’s premier seaports and a trailblazer in goods movement and environmental stewardship.  Trade valued annually at more than $180 billion moves through Long Beach, making it the second-busiest seaport in the United States.  A major economic force, the Port supports more than 30,000 jobs in Long Beach, 316,000 jobs throughout Southern California and 1.4 million jobs throughout the United States.  It generates about $16 billion in annual trade-related wages statewide.

Protecting the port complex is vital to our national economic and security interests.  The Port’s security teams and its partners are committed to protecting this national asset and the surrounding community.   The Port of Long Beach Joint Command & Control Center (JCCC) is a critical hub of a coordinated security effort that includes partnerships with multiple agencies including local and state law enforcement, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and others.  The JCCC monitors the maritime domain 24 hours a day, gathering information, analyzing data and disseminating information to security partners.  The Port of Long Beach has formalized agreements with regional security partners and Port security stakeholders, including marine terminal operators, to share security information, conduct joint training and operations, and coordinate threat information.

The Integrated Solution


As POLB worked to create a world class security automation program, the need to store, sort, prioritize and manipulate data became evident.  It was determined early in the benchmarking process that no product existed in the marketplace and that no off-the-shelf solutions were available.  The Security Division immediately started to look into various independent solutions that could provide special capabilities necessary to accomplish the overarching detail that the Port was attempting to achieve.  The focus of that activity was primarily Geographic Imaging Systems (GIS) and the visual representation of data that could be acquired through that type of system.  Through a request for statement of qualification process and a subsequent white paper and demonstration process, potential developers of the Virtual Port system were identified and evaluated.  The team led by Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri) was selected to develop the Virtual Port platform. 

 Virtual Port provides a dynamic operational planning tool for real time status of activities and events throughout the Port.  It supplies Port stakeholders with timely data for business resiliency, daily operations, threat and incident response, asset & property management and event documentation.   Virtual Port is a user friendly, geo-spatially based system.  It is a modular platform that consists of numerous independent software applications that create a tool box concept.  Virtual Port has four (4) primary data sources:  storage of historical data; collection of dynamic, open-source data; visualization date, pictures, maps, charts, etc.; and built-in process/incident models.  The platform is a pull system for sharing bidirectional information from the operator’s viewpoint.   Reports and incident data can be distributed to pre-identified users.  Virtual Port is not a control platform; it is an informational tool for referencing, modeling and processing existing information.

 Goals and Objectives

  • To enhance maritime domain awareness capabilities of the Joint Command & Control Center
  • To provide a common operational picture of Port operations to support security, response, and business continuity.
  • To integrate with the existing CCTV system; incorporating feeds from all cameras in the port-wide camera system, allowing users to access a real time view of the locations.
  • To provide data to regional first responders (such as, Long Beach Police and Fire Departments), giving them real time, onsite access to the Virtual Port software. 

 The purpose of the Virtual Port Project was to develop an advanced domain awareness tool that focuses on creating a picture of what is happening in or impacting Port operations in real time.  This information is utilized for creating a common operational picture for deployment of resources or re-directing of assets under the Port’s control.  The platform graphically represents information so that it can be easily understood by security control center operators.

 A collection of historical data, such as GIS based drawings, maps, “as builts”, etc., is available as static information on the platform.  The GIS feature allows for modeling information for evacuation and business continuity purposes.  This enables control center operators to direct maintenance crews and security staff to locations where critical actions would be required.  Examples of static information include power grids, water lines and their shut off valves, surveillance installation drawings, network configurations, etc. 

The third element of the platform is visualization, which includes embedding of still pictures and video clips of critical infra-structure for historical reference. The visual images can be matched to live feeds from the Port’s camera systems.  The final component is the data mining element.  The Port’s vision is to take shipping data from the Marine Exchange, Blue Force tracking, trucking data from TWIC and the Clean Truck Program, RFID information when it becomes available and various open source information for traffic, weather and general news agencies.

 This information automatically displays itself and removes its associated identifier from the grid when it is no longer significant for system display.  This provides an operator the best virtual picture of what is occurring in the Port at any given time.


The Virtual Port platform was developed in phases.  The Virtual Port Working Group consisting of various stakeholders within the port region identified capabilities that were developed and incorporated into the operational capability (IOC) of Virtual Port.    The Virtual Port system utilizes a map-centric situational awareness application to provide a user friendly screen to reach the various capability modules and data.  It is simple to use and navigates through rich layers of information.  The simplicity of design and web based development allows it to be accessed and utilized on mobile tablet devices (e.g. iPad).  The platform continues to evolve in its development, providing the opportunity to include additional layers of data to optimize visualization of the Port.


Virtual Port addresses operational needs, domain awareness, security protection issues and critical infra-structure status throughout the port complex.  Although GIS is an established application with widespread use, it has not been utilized as an interactive dash board for Maritime Domain Awareness.   Virtual Port combines over 50 data sources to give a layered picture of traffic,  ship movements,  events occurring in the port, etc. which leads to a comprehensive picture of what is taking place throughout the port complex.

 Virtual Port reduces and in some cases eliminates the human element to update the data which serves its users.  Through a multitude of automated vetted sources, Virtual Port displays the most current up-to-date status of operations in the Port complex without a large number of individuals manually loading the information into the system.  The information is widespread from vessel movements and ownership issues, to vehicle traffic, to environmental concerns and for daily operational issues.

 Virtual Port is fully operational and being utilized by the Joint Command & Control Center on a daily basis.   It is used by over 14 regional stakeholders, and receives over 300 updates to the system daily.  It is a true picture of the port.

 About the Author:

Randy D. Parsons is the Director of Security for the Port of Long Beach.

POLB Project Notes:

 Project Partners:

  • CAPT. Jennifer Williams, U.S. Coast Guard
  • Commander Randy Allen, Long Beach Police Department
  • Deputy Chief Mike Sarjeant, Long Beach Fire Department
  • Chief Ron Boyd, Los Angeles Port Police
  • Deputy Chief Robert Green, Los Angeles Police Department
  • Chief Deputy Mario Rueda, Los Angeles Fire Department
  • Kip Louttit, Marine Exchange of Los Angeles/Long Beach

Project Solution Providers:

  • Esri
  • IHS Global, Inc.
  • WeatherFlow, Inc
  • Witt O’Brien’s, LLC.
  • Datamyne
  • GNIP
  • Lanair
  • SSR
  • Marine Exchange
  • General Dynamics
  • Port of Long Beach