Jefferson County Waterway Monitors Vessel Traffic with Milestone Video Surveillance

Jefferson County Waterway Monitors Vessel Traffic with Milestone Video Surveillance

Milestone Systems open platform IP video management software (VMS) is at the center of operational overview for the authorities who handle the Sabine-Neches Waterway running 55 miles through Jefferson County, Texas, to the Gulf of Mexico. This area includes the number-one commercial and military out-load port in the United States and is the fourth largest port in terms of processed tonnage. They need to ensure the safety of those working and traveling through the port, and to keep traffic flowing for the commerce that relies on clear passage.

A vast traffic-monitoring network has been deployed here to ensure that all vessels (civilian, military and commercial) can safely navigate the waters with minimal interference such as collisions or other stoppage. The new surveillance system also monitors the many petroleum refineries that line the channel. Backed by a Verizon Wireless 4G connection, the county cameras along the waterway are networked through Milestone XProtect Enterprise VMS for managing high definition video of live vessel movements and incident reporting from the archived footage.

“Milestone truly is the best IP video open platform on the market. It integrates with all of the cameras seamlessly and provides the sheriff’s department with more high definition images for significantly better views of the waterway than their previous system. We now have camera ‘eyes’ located on an array of tall locations in challenging environments. Our solution design includes live mobile video on tablets and smartphones to dispatchers and personnel on watercraft,” said Mark Nolan, sales engineer at systems integrator Knight Security Systems.

Vessels range in size from small tugboats to huge tanker ships hauling hundreds of tons of oil and other commodities. When an incident is called in to port security, authorities must assess the situation and respond immediately. Milestone XProtect provides the user interface where reported incidents are checked in the video to determine if the port must close to resolve a situation or can continue operating. Closing the port for any amount of time is an expensive procedure, so having virtual eyes on the scene is imperative to optimal operations. 

The previously installed system was very limited - only viewable and navigable in one control station building. Knight Security Systems therefore designed and installed a Milestone XProtect Enterprise IP video surveillance solution managing AXIS Q1604 and Sony SNC-ER550 cameras, and more than eight terabytes of storage to provide 24 hours of archiving. With the Milestone Mobile client, the sheriff’s department and port authorities now have instant access to video from anywhere.

The Milestone solution consolidates the 24-hour monitored cameras into one centrally managed solution, viewable by all administrators in their respective offices, in the main monitoring station and on mobile devices. With high-level national security implications, live camera views and the ability to quickly check recorded video is essential to the port’s operational standards for efficiency. Every second between an incident report and confirmation of the validity of the report is crucial to the response process. 

Protecting the Port

The only ways to access Jefferson County through the waterway is via Sabine Pass or two entry points on the Intracoastal Waterway. With an advanced communications system and screening process, no vessel is unaccounted for. The cameras give verification to confirm radio transmissions. The Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) at Port Arthur acts as the “keepers of the gate” aided by the Milestone video management solution, issuing advisories and minimizing blind spots.

“If we pick up a radar blip that’s not transmitting an identification signal, it is imperative to identify that blip before it enters the port,” explained Michael Measells, director of vessel traffic service. “The cameras can do what radar can’t achieve - put an eye on a vessel through the Milestone XProtect software, allowing us to know what’s moving, from a marine safety and security standpoint. That’s the number-one mission.”

Cameras line the river and port entrance, placed in strategic locations from the roofs of buildings to the top of the Verizon Wireless 4G towers. A Jefferson County Sheriff helicopter also hosts a mounted camera ready to be called into action at any time, whether it’s monitoring an incident or making rounds. 

“We’ve adapted to the ease of application, connectivity and versatility of the Milestone interface very quickly – it’s so easy to use,” said John Moore, electronics materials officer, United States Coast Guard. “Milestone is always up and running, and it loads extremely fast on any mobile operating system. The versatility of our Milestone setup also allows us to remotely provide access to our Sector Command Center in Houston.”

Incident Confirmation and Control

The port is a vital, active entity, responsible for millions of dollars in assets and manpower. If an incident is reported to the Sheriff’s Department or Coast Guard, there are established procedures to follow before any response is made. Any event, whether a boating accident, cargo spill or personal injury, has the potential to shut down the channel for an extended length of time.

“This is a high-traffic waterway and with a limited width, there are bound to be close calls and incidents,” said Measells. “It’s good to have more eyes on each vessel.”

When an incident is reported, officials must immediately confirm the report. Then the proper authorities are contacted and ground or water personnel deployed as needed. The sheriff’s department jurisdiction covers the entire 55 miles of critical infrastructure. 

“If I get a report of an incident, I’ll pull Milestone Mobile up on my tablet or phone to assess the situation,” said Deputy Chief Mark Dubois, Jefferson County Sheriff. “XProtect helps us respond quickly, allowing us to view video from any cameras immediately, from any location, any time, to confirm or deny an event.”

“We can move from evaluation of a report to initiating a response in a matter of minutes, if not seconds,” Moore added. “There’s time and money there. Once we confirm, all responders’ mindsets are immediately shifted into response.”

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