Keeping up with recent changes and challenges
- By Anthony Incorvati
- Feb 01, 2017
When it comes to protecting transportation
hubs, seaports have their own set of challenges.
To mitigate potential risks along
water-facing perimeters requires advance
security measures, while busy container
yards, entry gates and terminals need solutions that strike a delicate
balance between security, safety and operational efficiency.
Those challenges will continue to compound as container volume
increases sharply in the coming decades. Port operators will have
to find creative ways to manage the expected growth in commerce,
using technology to help expedite the flow and inspection
of containers as they moved to and from the yards.
I sat down with my colleague, Jeff Brown, to discuss how ports
are currently using network video surveillance technology to address
those challenges. Jeff is the Managing Partner of Transportation
Technology Associates based in Melbourne Beach, Fla.,
and a recognized expert witness on matters of port security and
operations by the Federal Court of Appeals. Jeff also spent many
years as head of security at a major U.S. seaport.
Anthony Incorvati: Have you seen any changes in recent years in
how U.S. ports deal with safety and security issues?
Jeff Brown: Up until 15 years ago, most ports adhered to the
minimum requirements of the Coast Guard for cruise terminals
and facilities handling certain dangerous cargos. Since then, the
government passed the Maritime Transportation Safety Act
which led to the development of a comprehensive Code of Regulations
for maritime/port security. Port operators are now required
to do a risk assessment of their port and facilities and develop
and implement a comprehensive security plan that meets
these federal standards.
That being said, port operators quickly realized that they
couldn’t possibly implement those security measures with personnel
alone. So the owners started turning to surveillance systems
as force multipliers.
Interestingly enough, once ports began investing in cameras
for security operations departments started asking for access to
camera systems so they could monitor activity in and around the
terminals from an efficiency and safety perspective.
Incorvati: What are some of the strategic ways cameras are being
used for port security?
Brown: Typically ports deploy cameras for perimeter security.
They’re looking to keep a close eye on fence lines, gates, turnstiles,
and waterside access areas. For instance, having cameras at
the gates makes it possible to visually verify that an access card
cardholder and the access credential match one another before
releasing the gate lock or the turnstile.
Cameras are also being used to scan the inside of vehicles to
make sure there’s only one occupant so that unauthorized individuals
don’t enter the facility covertly or by piggybacking on a
legitimate person’s entry in a turnstile. Video cameras are also
being used to capture information about the vehicle and its cargo
– the license plate and the container numbers – which can be than
be matched to the registered shipper, the truck and driver. That
way security has a better sense of who’s coming into the port and
what they’re bringing with them. The captured video also serves
as a forensic record that can be used to locate the driver and,
hopefully, the container in the event the container is inadvertently
released or stolen.
Waterside security presents its own particular challenges. Sun
reflecting off the water during the daytime washes out a camera
view. At nighttime, the waterside is pitch-black making it difficult
to detect covert approaches. Security departments are addressing
waterside surveillance issues with a strategic combination of thermal
cameras and other motion sensors such as radar.
Incorvati: Can you talk about some of the other types of cameras
being deployed for security?
Brown: Historically, ports used analog cameras. But we’re seeing
a shift to IP-based cameras as ports are becoming more technically
savvy. That’s proven to be significantly advantageous, not
only in terms of infrastructure requirements but also in terms
of system capabilities. Instead of the long runs of coax cable
needed for analog systems, IP-based systems connect to the
port’s existing fiber networks. Once cameras are connected to
the network, security staff can log into the cameras remotely
from authorized mobile devices as well as traditional desktops
in the security command center.
Ports, by virtue of their diverse environments, rely on a diverse
portfolio of cameras to capture the details they need for forensic
investigations and maritime security. Thermal cameras, as I
mentioned before, are popular for detecting waterside approaches
at night. You’ll also find a variety of fixed and pan/tilt/zoom
network cameras, network cameras with wide-angle lenses, day/
night network cameras, lowlight network cameras, and network
cameras with 360 degree capabilities being used to cover critical
port and facilities areas 24/7, 365 days a year.
Incorvati: Now that we’ve talk about the security side, what’s
different about the way a port’s operations department uses the
Brown: Basically the focus on the operations side is on efficiency
and safety – whether it’s the movement of cargo or the movement
of cruise ship passengers. It all starts with traffic outside the gate
on roadway approaches. The quicker you move containers and people through gates, the more cost-effective your operation will
be and the more attractive your port will be for companies to do
business there. So the operations department uses the video cameras
like an intelligent highway system, monitoring traffic queues
so they can adjust staffing and lane openings on the fly in order
to maximize throughput and minimize wait times.
From a commerce perspective, the cameras provide an empirical
record of what is being trucked into the premises and what is
being trucked out. Cameras equipped with recognition software
record the vehicle’s license plate and each cargo container number
and tie them to the driver’s credentials in an electronic record.
Once inside the gate, cameras help yard managers direct the
movement of cargo. Managers can monitor yard activity, identify
slots for loading and unloading, detect problems in the lanes and
dispatch resources all from the safety of their office. I’ve even seen
some ports put cameras on the cargo cranes to help operators
lock the lift arm mechanism onto boxes and move the boxes into
slots. It’s actually a lot faster and safer than depending on someone
in the yard waving you on with hand signals.
And then, of course, there’s the cruise terminal side of the operation.
While they certainly deploy cameras around perimeters
and at gates like they do in a cargo yard, there’s also a lot of emphasis
on monitoring escalators. Ports are infamous for getting
into litigation over slip-and-falls on escalators. And the cameras
help to mitigate those types of lawsuits.
Camera systems are becoming integral to other types of critical
maritime facilities, especially refineries. Refinery safety is a
great application for cameras equipped with thermal analytics
because they can be programmed to detect and alert operators
to temperature variations on pumps that might lead to a fuel leak
or to a bearing seize-up that would shut down operations. Having
that kind of an early warning system is critical in those environments,
especially when you’re moving flammable liquids through
a pump and pipeline.
Incorvati: Have you seen other analytics being used much at ports?
Brown: The first thing to remember is that no one sensor does
everything well in every location. Video analytics work well on a
fence line detection system, generating an alarm if someone attempts
to climb the fence or jump the gate. But analytics typically
fail on waterside surveillance because wave action tends to create
false alarms and sunlight reflecting off the water washes out
However, analytics work great in cruise terminal parking garages.
They can detect and alert security to someone casing cars
to break into or if someone is being assaulted.
I always recommend that ports use a strategic mix of sensors
– fiber optics fence detection systems coupled with cameras, radar
sensors coupled with cameras, and cameras equipped with
video analytics to address the unique topology of the environment.
There’s no one silver bullet when it comes to using technology
to improve security. Every tool in the toolbox has its
strengths and weaknesses.
Incorvati: Are there other ways ports are leveraging their video
Brown: Training is another area where cameras are becoming indispensable.
Having a video history of an event helps you see how
it all unfolded and you might do things differently in the future.
It’s also a way to monitor employee performance. You have to
remember, working in a port isn’t like working at a discount store.
These facilities are restricted under Federal law and have to have
a higher level of security.
The people who protect them have to be held to a higher standard.
So it’s important for port managers to know that their people
are doing their jobs right, that they’re not accessing areas of
the facilities that they shouldn’t or allowing anyone else to enter
who doesn’t belong there.
Incorvati: We hear a lot about the convergence of IT and security.
Has that had an impact on the way ports approach IP video
Brown: I’ve always been a proponent of IT being involved in the
design and procurement of the security system because the technology
is generally outside the expertise of the average of security/
law enforcement group. I’ve seen what happens when a security
department tries to procure and deploy complex technology
solutions by themselves. Oftentimes they don’t really understand
what they’ve bought or the total cost of managing and owning it.
Typically the IT Department is left holding the bag because the
solution is either unstable or incompatible with other technology
riding on their network.
I’m a firm believer that the IT department should own the
technology systems and have the security department be their client.
That way each group gets to do what they do best. Security
departments get the service level agreements they need because
IT recognizes that the cameras are mission critical to the port’s
operation and IT gets control over what technology gets attached
to their network. However, I’ve also seen where some ports have
addressed this issue by giving the security department its own IT
staff to install and maintain the surveillance systems.
As a member of the American Association of Port Authorities
(AAPA), the leading professional maritime organization, I’m
definitely seeing the affect that the convergence of security and IT
is having on the industry. AAPA’s security and IT committees are
now holding joint conferences on a regular basis to discuss how
the industry can best leverage the convergence of technology with
port safety, security and efficiency.
Incorvati: What I take away from our conversations is that IP
video technology will continue to play an important role both in
port security and port operations and safety. I’m already seeing a
number of camera manufacturers producing cameras with capabilities
especially well-suited to port environments.
There are thermal cameras that can reveal the heat signature
of intruders attempting to scale security fences or approach a
waterside under cover of darkness. Pan/tilt cameras with optical
zoom are helping inspectors to remotely examine containers in
a yard that might stretch the length of six football fields instead
of walking all that distance on foot and running the risk of being
hit by a massive crane or stacker. Port operators can now use
presets coupled with video analytics to enable a camera to sense
an event, such as a reach stacker attaching to a container, and
execute a sequence of predetermined moves to scan and record
the condition of a container’s sides and bottoms. It’s the kind of
visual archive that can assist a port in determining liability in case
someone should submit an insurance claim.
But what’s most clear to me is that the strategic
partnership between IT and security is
essential for the long-term success of whatever
solution ports choose to implement.
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of Security Today.