A Royal Dutch Treat
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Jun 03, 2009
We've written about cargo, port and airport
security in the past, but there's nothing like
seeing a port first-hand to understand how it
all works. Without an up close and personal view, much
is left to the imagination of how seagoing vessels arrive
in port to unload, only to depart a few days later with
hundreds of loaded containers.
Thanks to the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency
in The Hague, Netherlands, learning about cargo security
at the Port of Rotterdam and airport security at Schiphol
Airport became a first-hand experience for me. The Port
of Rotterdam is the largest port and industrial area in
Europe and is in constant development. It also is in close
coexistence with housing, industry and transportation
infrastructure. Port officials are currently developing
more land to increase utility of the port.
While in Rotterdam, I talked with Capt. Jaap C.
Lems, director, chief harbor master and port security
officer, who said security is top of mind for cargo and
shipping employees, as well as thousands of longshoremen
"We have invested millions of dollars in security and
use X-ray to scan everything," Lems said. "We also
employ fixed and mobile scanning equipment and radiation
portal monitors, and customs employs risk analysis
factors for everything that comes through this port."
Security in a port this size is not only about what you
can see, so there are measures taken for potential incidents
unseen, which includes underwater security. The Port of
Rotterdam has implemented sensors on the water's surface
to ensure that cargo vessels can reach port safely. The
port's 160 terminals require the use of radar.
The Netherlands has established a safety region to
minimize risks and potential threats from terrorism,
fire and emergency response. Twenty cities form the
safety region, which has established regional fire and
police departments. Also, the department of risk and
crisis management includes the Rotterdam Port
Authority and harbor master, the environmental
department and hazmat advisors.
"Everything is in place for the port authority to conduct
high throughput scanning of containers," Lems
said. "Based on risk analysis, up to 10 percent of all containers
are scanned. Security as a whole is the responsibility
of the port authority."
Making certain only authorized ships enter the port,
officers in the harbor crisis center work around the clock
to monitor the cargo entering the terminal. All vessels,
by law, must contact the harbor master at least 24 hours
before entering harbor waters to inform them of their
type of cargo. This secures docking reservations and
ensures that the vessels are met by harbor crews in an
inflatable craft. Port authority duty officers are alerted
before a ship arrives at the harbor.
If an unidentified vessel were to steer toward the port
channels, or if a suspicious vessel moved into the harbor,
security officials would be dispatched to investigate. If a
situation escalated, the U.S. equivalent of the Coast
Guard would appear, weapons at the ready. The harbor
has a network of cameras in place to observe all the
comings and goings of seagoing vessels. A suspicious
vessel would get a special inspection from a port authority
pilot, who would board the vessel for the remainder
of the trip inside the harbor.
Schiphol airport in Amsterdam is an international way
station, a crossroads for local and regional tourist trade,
and an economy all its own. It also is home to local and
regional mass transportation, as well as a stopping-off
point for a European Union high-speed train network.
One security measure in place at Schiphol, which has
been rather controversial in the United States, is the fullbody
scan, which uses radio waves, not X-rays. The system
uses millimeter wave technology, which creates a
full-body image by means of reflection. The person steps
into a cylindrical device fully clothed, but the generated
image is almost completely naked, with the face shielded.
The scan reveals all metal, plastic and ceramic
objects on the body.
"The airport is in the beginning stages of Phase 2,
where we will install as many as 4,000 digital cameras,"
said Miro Jerkovic, security policy and projects, and
senior manager of research and development. "The
fiber-optic backbone connects to all five control rooms
on the airport, including cameras on the cargo platform
and plaza, license plate recognition, air terminal gates
and at the railways."
Perhaps the most obvious of security tactics are the
constant patrols of (heavily) armed police. At any time,
there are about 50 pairs of security officers, and as I am
told, at least that many patrols of undercover police.
This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Security Today.