By Land or by Sea
Floating ideas about surveillance cameras on boats, trains and trucks
- By Fredrik Nilsson
- Jul 01, 2010
Transportation security is a loaded term. There are so many different facets
and subsets to transportation security -- such as mass transit, Department
of Transportation surveillance and airport security -- and they all present
their own challenges.
Port terminals in particular represent an interesting cross-section of environments,
from waterfront activity to railway and trucking transport. A recent conversation
with David Lindquist of Port Solution Integrators in North Carolina
centered on some of the security and safety issues integrators typically face when
deploying surveillance cameras in this setting.
From Lindquist’s viewpoint, port security encompasses three main areas: waterfront
and shoreline surveillance, internal access and yard operations. With advancements
in video analytics and infrared technology, and the recent introduction
of thermal network cameras, more port operators are using video to secure
perimeters, control access to property and equipment, and remotely monitor container
movement to keep workers out of harm’s way.
Guarding Against Perimeter Breaches
The sheer vastness of ports makes them particularly challenging to protect. Integrators
must build systems that guard against attempts to penetrate all areas along
miles of perimeter fencing. End users also need to remain alert against trespassers
in small watercraft using the cover of darkness to invade from the ocean side.
Though barbed and razor wire tend to discourage intruders, Lindquist often
recommends that his clients link video cameras to smart fencing technology to
improve detection and apprehension capabilities. If a person or object touches
the fence, the system directs the cameras to pan and zoom to the location of the
breach. At the same time, the system alerts officers to the situation so they can
direct their attention to video streaming from those cameras and dispatch officers
to investigate the event.
On the shoreline in particular, thermal network cameras with embedded analytics
can separate the heat signature of water from other objects in the frame and
trigger an alert if an anomalous heat signature is detected. As Lindquist points
out, since lighting up the ocean is not an option, thermal cameras can serve as the
front line guards to detect suspicious behavior. The superior detection capabilities
of thermal technology greatly reduce false alarms when working with motion analytics.
Once motion is identified, infrared cameras can be directed to the location
to provide greater image detail.
“In a typical port, one or two police officers are watching more than 200 cameras
at any given time,” Lindquist said. “A person simply can’t process that many
images simultaneously. So you need video intelligence to alert them as to where
they need to focus their attention at any particular moment and provide valid data
to help officers quickly formulate a reasonable response.”
Screening ID Badges
Since ports fall under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, every
person entering the premises must either possess a federally issued TWIC access
card or be escorted by someone who does. When this government photo ID is
swiped at the entrance to the port, it triggers a database search to verify that the
person is authorized to be on site.
Lindquist explained that it is important for ports to deploy video cameras at
entrances to visually verify that the person who owns the TWIC card is actually
the person swiping it through the card reader. Video analytics compare the camera
image with the database image to ensure there is a match. If there is a discrepancy,
the system sends an alert to officers to detain the individual in question.
“You want to avoid someone using another person’s TWIC card to get on
site,” Lindquist said. “It might be something innocent, like asking someone to
drop off building supplies at the port in their stead. But then again, it could be
something more sinister like stealing an ID so you can smuggle in contraband or
While high-resolution cameras are particularly useful in verifying identities, instant
notification is another valuable feature for internal security, especially since
operators are monitoring cameras 24/7. Alarms draw their immediate attention to
an incident in real time. Being able to quickly roll back the video to several minutes
prior to an alarm also is critical, Lindquist said, since the incident might have been
used merely as a diversion to pull attention away from the primary event or actual
Protecting Workers from Hazards
Ports are bustling operations where huge containers are constantly being hoisted
from one mode of transportation to another, on and off cargo ships, rail cars and
commercial tractor trailers.
Because much of the operation is not automated, workers still dodge their way
through lumbering yard equipment to manually capture container identification
numbers, cargo bay location numbers and other information used to track shipments
through the port. With the marriage of optical character recognition and
high-resolution PTZ video cameras, however, port operators can remotely capture
that information without leaving the operations center, thus minimizing their exposure
to dangerous areas of the yard.
In Lindquist’s experience, ports are now looking into or starting to upgrade
their infrastructure to extend throughout the yard, so the backbone is already in
place to support network camera technology. Cameras can piggyback on the network,
saving the port the cost and interruption of service required to string separate
cable for video surveillance.
“This creates a whole new market space for integrators,” Lindquist said. “Worker
safety is a big issue. If a camera gets crushed by a large vehicle, the dollar loss
is small. If something should happen to a person instead, no amount of money
could compensate for that.”
Making Port Security a Priority
The very nature of the environment makes protecting U.S. ports a technological
challenge. Yet by intelligently marrying network video surveillance with other
security systems, integrators can provide port authorities with
effective ways to deter, detect and apprehend perpetrators
before they can damage people and property or threaten our