Knowing Your Access Control
Marina owners should examine what type of electronic security system they want
- By Scott Lindley
- Sep 01, 2015
Having participated in securing many marinas, there is one
thing I know for certain: when planning to go into the marina
business, not one entrepreneur planned to become an access
control manager. However, upon opening their marinas, most
very quickly learned that they would need some type of electronic
security system to protect their business, property, customers and staff.
Nonetheless, most take on the role of access control manager for their properties
and here are some of the things that they have learned that have made
What Are Some Access Control System Parameters?
In a quick walk-through of your marina, ask the following questions:
- Do I have four or more access points around my property?
- Is one or more of those access points somewhat hidden, making it
easy for an unauthorized person to enter?
- Do I have offices in different places throughout the property?
- Can I connect my access points with hardwiring or will wireless
make more sense?
- What type of reader will work best?
- What type of credential will work best?
- What kind of door locks (strikes) will make most sense?
With four or more access points around your property, there is no way that
you can keep eyes at all entry points, especially if all can’t be viewed from a single
location. Plus, you want to assure that only authorized people get into your
office to say nothing of who is using your dock gates, vehicle gates and equipment,
such as fish hoists, pressure washers, pump outs, cranes, boat launch
ramps, power plug-ins and restrooms. To assure that all these locales are observed
would take a team of guards or a sophisticated video system. For most
marinas, that would simply cost too much money.
To determine if you need your security system to be hardwired or wireless,
you don’t need to be an access control system designer. Can you connect wire
from wherever your controller will be to the various access points without a
lot of trenching throughout the property? Without even seeing your property,
I can tell you, “probably not.” Almost every marina that has an access control
system uses wireless. Instead of spending money to dig up the property to lay
wire, a wireless system lets you put much more of your budget into the hardware
and software you need to protect your marina.
Lastly, you will need a marina-grade electrical solution. The power, wiring,
locks and readers need to stand up to the ultra-demanding outdoor environmental
constraints of water from power spraying to saltwater, sleet, snow
and hail. In fact, your marina may be considered a very environmentally nasty
place to install any type of electronics. As a result, you need to be looking for
products that meet a minimum IP67 rating, not simply labeled as “waterproof.”
“IP” stands for “Ingress Protection.” An IP number is used to specify the
environmental protection of enclosures around electronic equipment. These
ratings are determined by specific tests. The IP number is composed of two
numbers, the first referring to the protection against solid objects and the second
against liquids. The higher the number is, the better the protection. An
IP67 rated product is rated to protect against solids, including dust, as well
as jet spraying with and immersion in water. To emphasize, waterproof is not
enough. IP67 rated products feature tough tamper-proof and weather-resistant
epoxy potting to avoid problems with dust, mist or water.
Quick Overview of Readers and Credentials
Now that you’ve been schooled on IP67, let’s look at the readers, credentials
and locks in more depth. There are different sizes of readers. It is important
that you choose the reader that works best for that particular entrance point.
The first is a small 1.5 x 3 inch proximity card reader that mounts to a metal
door or window frame, referred to as a mullion reader. The authorized user
holds up the badge, which is the size of a credit card, in proximity of the reader
and the door unlocks. If the card isn’t authorized, the door stays locks.
The second is a somewhat larger—3 x 4.5 inch—proximity card reader that
mounts on a wall and includes a 3-color LED indicator—red, green and amber.
Marinas that want to have higher security use a reader that combines a proximity
card reader with a keypad so that those who are authorized to use a particular
entry or piece of equipment must produce their card plus enter a PIN. Most
marina management prefer keypads combining solid-state non-mechanical keys for maximum reliability with backlighting
of the individual keys for maximum
visibility even at night.
Credentials available range from
badges, which are the size of a credit
card, to key ring tags which, as the
name implies, can be easily carried on
a key ring. As with card reader quality,
again you always choose those that
provide a lifetime warranty. Additionally,
look for passive devices that don’t
require a battery. And, as a marina
owner, experience shows you should
be considering a credential that offers
maximum convenience and durability.
For this, most prefer a key ring tag. I
recommend looking for one that includes
a reinforcing brass eyelet and is
fully sealed with epoxy potting.
Regarding proximity credential
formatting, always consider a custom
format, which helps ensure that the
individual credential codes are truly
unique. Your integrator can provide a
high-security handshake, or code, between
the card, tag and reader to help
prevent credential duplication and ensure
that your readers will only collect
data from your marina’s specially coded
credentials. No other company will
have reader/card combination that only
you get from your integrator. Only your
reader will be able to read your card or
tag and your reader will read no other
card or tag.
Regarding card reader quality, always
choose those that provide a lifetime
warranty. Inquire about FCC and
ETL compliance. You may also want
to consider personalizing your cards
and tags with your logo, telephone
number, location map or some other
graphic which helps promote the use of
Another type of access control system
popular with marinas is a long
range system that uses a receiver and a
transmitter, not a card or key tag. This
system is provided to good customers
so that they can more easily enter the
marina’s front gate as the system will
“read” from up to 200 feet away. It is
available in a two- or four-button configuration
and equipped standard with
a weather-resistant potted proximity or
contactless smart card module. Each
transmitter integrates the convenience
of long range identification with traditional
proximity or contactless smart
card access control.
To enter the marina, the customer
presses the transmitter button from
the secure convenience of their vehicle
(without lowering the window)
and, when wanting to gain access at
the door to a bathroom or other site,
they simply present the transmitter to
the building’s proximity reader. Since
identical data is transmitted upon button
press or presentation, each user
needs only be enrolled once in the access
Locks become more complicated
because various types of locks meet
different types of specifications and
functions. Your system designer should
have the different locks available detailed
on their website. Here is a rule
of thumb: If the designer is providing IP67 compliant readers and credentials
backed by a lifetime warranty, they are
probably providing quality locks as
well. Plus, you can always call one of
their customers and ask how the locks
are actually holding up.
Pay Plenty of Attention to
the Software and Controller
This is the heart of your new access
control system. You can be meticulous
regarding all the above but, if the software
and controller aren’t reliable and
easy to use, you’ve just bought a problem,
not a solution.
Most marina owners needed an enterprise
based solution that will also
run with the marina management software
system that most marina owners
use to operate their businesses. Odds
are that your best choice for software
and controller will be an integrator that
has already put in other marina or similar
types of property systems.
Real-Life Examples of What
Can Be Done with Access
Entry is basic to the need for an access
control system at marinas both
small and big. For instance, the Blue
Water Yacht Club in Sausalito, Calif.
uses their system to control a vehicle
gate, dock gate and two restroom doors
while the Miami Beach (Fla.) marina is
uses their system to control many dock
gates, restrooms and parking garages.
The Port of Everett (Wash.) consists of
a hodge-podge of legacy systems that
have been integrated into a security system
with more than 60 access points in
an area greater than 3.5 acres that features
links up to a mile apart.
The ingenuity of marina owners
has led many to extend the reach of
their systems from only entrance access
control. The fish cranes in Juneau and
Valdez, Alaska, small boat harbors are
now controlled by their access control
systems. To use them, authorized patrons
use their credentials in exactly the
same way that they enter the marina.
In Valdez, the system links to a
crane from a mile away. The Port of
Anacortes (Wash.) uses their wireless
system to control boat/fish hoists. And,
at Paradise Village (Puerto Vallarta,
Mexico), the system provides gated access
to the ramps. Some of these ramps
are available 24/7 and some limit access
to those who dock there.
The Good News about Access
A marina owner can assure that the investment
in an electronic access control
system provides quick payback and a
solid ROI by spending time up front with
a reputable systems provider. Working
with the designer to determine the scope
of what the access control system should
do and assuring that the hardware and
software being specified will provide a
reliable solution that
will work now and provide
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Security Today.