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SecurityshieldAt a time when the global terrorist threat remains disturbingly high and when the maritime sector has never been more vulnerable, Caribbean Maritime looks at the vital topic of port security

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Keeping out the bad guys…

It’s worth investing in a really effective system of port access control

It is a widely held belief that, as you add layers of security to ports, the flow of goods and services will be disrupted. To reduce the potential impact of such security measures, port operators and supply chain stakeholders should seek ways to better integrate security systems into their operations.

Louis Noriega reports. 

In addition to keeping Caribbean goods on the move, ports also help keep the Caribbean economy on the move. Port activity contributes substantially to the GDP of the islands while creating port-related jobs that generate significant annual personal income which contributes to the tax base.

This important industry must be safeguarded in order to prevent criminal activity from infiltrating the operations. It must not be allowed to become a social ill to the community it serves. Ports present an attractive target for developing criminal conspiracies due to their component role in national and local economies. They contain important assets and infrastructure which if damaged could cause significant loss of life, a negative impact on the economy and the environment. Criminals look for ways to cripple local, regional and national economies.

It is the responsibility of us all to keep it safe and secure and to tightly integrate physical security processes and systems into day-to-day operations without disrupting passenger operations, commerce, international trade and recreational and tourist-related port business. Port operators, manufacturers, shippers and other stakeholders in the supply chain are focused on maintaining the flow of commerce, while law enforcement, security personnel and governing bodies emphasize the need for heightened security.


Several high-technology solutions are currently available that can significantly ease the screening process. These include electronic access control with anti-piggy-backing capability, video management and analytics, waterside surveillance, fenced line protection, emergency call systems, intercom, law enforcement automatic license plate reader systems, web intelligence, domain awareness and incident management (both operational and security), mass notification, autonomous vehicles and cargo gate entry and exit systems, all managed from a joint operational and security command center.

As the basic function of security is to protect the target environment from harm, this effort must be founded on an effective regimen of control over who and what will be permitted to enter or approach the environment.

Access control infrastructure must strike the right balance between efficient throughput and knowing precisely who and what is coming in or going out. Even in residential settings, access is controlled by developing best practices to screen those desiring to enter. When the doorbell rings, the resident wants to know who is there before opening the door. Children are taught to practice good security and safety when they are alone or when someone knocks at the door. If unfamiliar third parties are permitted entry, then hopefully they have been pre-screened to ensure there are no risk factors in their background that portend some future harm.

Similarly, by instituting controls to identify, screen and monitor people and vehicles entering and exiting ports, a major layer of security is added to mitigate the vulnerabilities of the ‘open systems’ nature of seaports.

Two major components essential to comprehensive port access control are identification and credentialing; and restricted or controlled area access controls.

Identification and credentialing is the process that provides seaports with a systemic way to identify and control who has authorization to enter a seaport.

Restricted area access controls comprise physical infrastructure, procedures, systems and guidance for screening, monitoring and controlling access into and out of the facility. The primary methods for restricting access – such that those with criminal intent are excluded – are to identify them before access is granted and to screen them during access.


Those who access the port most frequently may develop an intimate knowledge of port operations and geography, including knowledge of security systems, guard forces and access controls. It is imperative that the port knows who is entering, what they are bringing with them and why they are entering.

People intent on exploiting ports to conduct criminal activity will use their knowledge of ports and their operations to find weaknesses in their security systems. Advance notice of arrival of vessels, trucks, visitors, crew members, passengers and cargo is another dynamic that provides port security management with a useful tool for mitigating the port’s access vulnerabilities. The issuance of a photo identification credential to each person authorized access (temporary or permanent) is a key component of port access control. Individuals must be required to possess and display a photo identification credential at all times when accessing or working within port restricted access areas. Fingerprints and criminal history background checks are especially important to consider with a view to filtering out and denying access to those with a criminal propensity. In the United States, all persons requesting access to restricted areas of a seaport are required to submit to an electronic background check, while in the United Kingdom airport employees who work in restricted areas must undergo a criminal background check.

The credential should be an electronic access control card which can allow the addition of a biometric (methods for uniquely recognizing humans based on one or more physical traits such as fingerprints, voiceprint identification, palm, retina and others) captured during card issuance and stored on a smart chip (similar to credit cards) that can be matched to the physical trait of the person requesting access. This technology significantly increases positively matches the card to the person and makes it very hard to create a fraudulent card.

Access control systems represent that component of port security in which the port facility security officer makes determinations as to what people, vehicles and materials will be permitted to enter the seaport. Access controls include – but are not limited to – requiring identification cards and visitors, requiring advance notice of delivering and the screening of vehicles, pedestrians and cargo.

Restricted areas secured by access control must be defined so that all people are aware of areas where only those with proper credentials are permitted access. Restricted areas should include:

  • Cargo storage or staging areas
  • Docks, berths and wharves
  • Fuel storage or transfer yards
  • Passenger cruise and ferry terminals.

These areas should be protected by physical barriers and electronic protective measures such as biometric readers, cameras, gates, sensors and analytics as well as other technologies that a seaport can integrate into its processes and systems to improve security and its operational processes.

It would behoove port executive management to reach out to an operations and physical security technology consultant with substantial experience of seaports and cargo terminals to create an operational and physical security technology master plan to develop a roadmap to achieve operational efficiencies and expedite the flow of commerce while also securing this most important asset of our national economies.





Complacency: the greatest terrorist threat of all


By William Lusk

Director of Operations, Homeland Security Outlook


Caribbean region in danger of letting its guard down when it comes to port security, says expert

Reading articles and watching television, all can agree that terrorism has lately dominated the headlines. ISIS was responsible for a shooting spree in Paris, violence persists on the US/Mexican border and scores of cruise passengers were killed in an attack in Tunisia.

The Caribbean region is not immune. The websites of Caribbean governments have been hacked by Middle Eastern militants and the Caribbean Sea is used all too often as a conveyance to traffic people, drugs and weapons. Incidents of piracy and armed robbery, although rare, do still plague the Caribbean. Despite these high-profile challenges, our greatest threat, complacency, is setting in.

Perhaps the biggest indicator of complacency can be measured in dollars and cents. One example is the dwindling Port Security Grant Program (PSGP), designed to build and sustain the security and resiliency of ports in the United States. These funds, distributed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency of the US Department of Homeland Security, can be used for wide-ranging purposes such as training and exercises, response vessels, detection equipment, sensors like cameras and radar, and more.

The chart below details the amount made available per fiscal year:


Not only is the size of the financial pot shrinking, but smaller ports and law enforcement agencies must now compete directly against larger ports and agencies, unlike in years past. Further, much of the equipment purchased in 2008’s Port Security Grant Program allocation now needs repair or replacement, although funds are no longer available to do so.

The financial effect is far-reaching, and now the US government is incapable of enforcing its own port security laws. For example, the Safe Ports Act of 2007 mandates that all cargo containers bound for the US must be screened for radiological and nuclear material by 2012. Since the 2012 deadline, DHS Secretaries Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson have waived this requirement because it is too expensive to implement, costing as much as US$ 12 billion by some estimates.

Like ports, militaries and law enforcement agencies are not immune to budget cuts. Admiral Paul Zukunft, Commandant of the US Coast Guard, said: “We have actionable intelligence on approximately 90 per cent of known maritime drug movements. However, with too few surface and air assets to patrol the vast expanses of the transit zone, they can only attempt to target, detect and disrupt 20 per cent of that known flow. You can do the math – it is an issue of capacity.”


In Mexico, it has been reported that the proposed 2016 budget slashes its local law enforcement budget by approximately US$ 172 million. National law enforcement in Mexico is also being hit hard by austerity measures. Alejandro Hope, the security and justice editor of ‘El Daily Post’, wrote of the Interior Ministry (Secretaría de Gobernación): “Gobernación as a whole has had the investment side of its budget cut by 77 per cent. It is under Gobernación that almost all federal public security programs are operated.”

The Hon. Colm Imbert, Minister of Finance of Trinidad and Tobago, was candid in recent remarks about the nation’s maritime security assets. In his 2016 budget statement, Minister Imbert said: “When we came into office last month, we met a mix of naval assets hastily ordered and delivered for public relations purposes just before the 2015 election – not fully outfitted, without armaments and without proper financial arrangements in place. In local parlance, we purchased these new vessels on trust.”

Shipping lines and terminals are businesses just like any other, with shareholders and investors to answer to. Security investments like radars, cameras, fencing, guards and others are very expensive to buy, train with and maintain as necessary. Private-sector executives, facing budget cuts just as governments in the aforementioned cases, may rhetorically ask about the return on investment for security acquisition beyond minimums called for by government and ISPS regulations. It is impossible to measure the return on investment of security assets until a catastrophic event actually does occur. When a calamity happens, natural or man-made, the investment in security technology and/or training then becomes priceless to minimize the loss of life, property and time to resume continuity of operation.


The maritime community in the western hemisphere has been blessed in that no significant terrorist attack has occurred in vessels or ports. In letting our guard down by becoming complacent and unwilling to invest resources in security, the Caribbean maritime community will become no safer and prepared for terrorism than aircraft on 10 September 2001.

Risk can be defined as a simple mathematical formula: threat x vulnerability x consequence. With Caribbean islands so small and reliant on maritime commercial traffic for energy, food, trade and tourism, any terrorist attack would have enormous consequence for the island or islands involved. The threat to the Caribbean is present. However, we, the maritime stakeholders, have control over our vulnerability. Will we properly invest time and resources to lower our vulnerability? In doing so, we lower our risk and complacency.





Who’s using your tender tonight?


By Brian Kane

Director of research and development Global Ocean Security Technologies


Security gaps make super yachts a target for smugglers

With mega yachts using port authorities more and more frequently for transient mooring, the leisure marine sector can often be overlooked as the unique security plan standards of these boats are not as regulated as those of commercial ships.

Brian Kane reports.

Smugglers know that leisure yachts are not as rigorously vetted by port security as commercial vessels. While leisure crews have 24/7 watches, the crews need to be better aware of the tactics smugglers are using to get illicit goods on leisure boats, whether it’s bolting a parasitic container to the stern or bribing crew members at the local bar to allow access to the boat during a scheduled open security window later that night.

With many of these yachts often doing charters, there is a lot of information already out there for anyone to Google a boat’s capacity, layout, toys, ownership, crew members, etc. This information is extremely valuable to smugglers in finding the softest mega yacht target available.

Often, too, these yachts have fast center-console tenders tied off to their side. It is not uncommon for tenders to disappear in the middle of the night, often never to be seen again. Triple 350 hp engines on the back of a 35 ft stolen boat can haul a lot of humans or illicit goods in and out of countries. Leisure marine crews need to be more aware of threats that both the mega yacht and its toys face. Having security sensors and theft deterrence solutions installed can go a long way to preventing you becoming a victim, while keeping the whole crew aware of everything that is happening on board.


These solutions can allow the captain to keep tabs on what his crew and guests are doing as well. Smugglers monitor the fuel docks closely and know which fast tenders have a full load of gas on board. Often, when the boat is stolen, it is cut free from the mega yacht at night, allowed to drift away and then towed off by a skiff to a discreet area. The criminals will then board the boat to find and try to eliminate any security sensors and tracking systems, cut the T-top off to reduce radar signature and weight and load up additional fuel bladders or barrels in preparation for their journey.

If the boat is found while under way during an active smuggling operation, the smugglers will often place their human cargo (and sometimes themselves) in front of the engine cowlings to prevent the blocks from being shot out while being chased until the boat gets to its final destination. Insurance companies are often making security and tracking systems mandatory to bind coverage on many go-fast leisure boats.

Outside the leisure marine side, another area in which we are seeing increased demand from our commercial maritime clients is monitoring doors for unauthorized openings on sealed containers and the exact time and location it occurred. Our customers are in need of a self-contained battery powered satellite tracking system with a basic door contact to provide global situational awareness.

The issue, of course, is that containers on ships have no power source, so this independent long battery life solution is the only real option to monitor.

SMS messages and emails are sent out for door openings and door closings and if it has moved out of a predefined geofence. This is valuable information for fleet managers to let them know if the asset or its goods have been compromised. It is also a silent alarm with no local sirens that go off, so it’s possible to catch the perpetrator in the act. These mission-critical terminals have a rechargeable battery that can report as often as every five minutes or just once a day with an inverse relationship to reporting cycle and battery life.

These tracking systems operate over the Inmarsat geostationary satellite network and have a 99.9 per cent messaging reliability and efficiency to meet IMO standards.





Cool handling of ‘hot’ goods

How to detect radioactive materials in transit without causing a fuss

By Kimberly Prono

Nuclear terrorism is a real threat. In April 2014 the Ukrainian security service seized 1.5 kg of radioactive material possibly containing uranium-235. Unfortunately, the incident in Ukraine is not unusual. In the past 22 years almost 2,500 incidents of trafficking radioactive material have been reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by member states. And these are only the cases that have been formally reported.

Special nuclear materials such as uranium and plutonium are used in sophisticated nuclear weapons. However, a small quantity of radioactive material that is routinely and safely employed in medical and industrial applications can cause significant radiation contamination to a wide area when part of a dirty bomb. Therefore, radioactive material that has been lost, stolen or improperly disposed of is a threat.

Another major risk is contamination by ‘orphan’ radioactive sources, which get mixed with scrap metal. Consider the discovery in July 2010, during a routine inspection in the Italian port of Genoa, of a cargo container filled with nearly 23,000 kg of scrap copper that was emitting gamma radiation at a rate over 160 times the average annual human exposure to natural radiation. After more than a year in quarantine on port grounds, the container was dissected using robots and Italian officials discovered a rod of cobalt-60, only 23 cm long and 0.8 cm in diameter, intermingled with the scrap. They suspected its provenance to be inappropriately disposed of medical or food-processing equipment. Fortunately, the radioactive source was detected in time before it was melted with the scrap metal and produced radioactive products with associated significant economic damage and public health concerns.

Seaports have a mission to move freight and people through the port quickly and safely. In doing so, they face a range of possibilities to encounter radioactive material. Thousands of cargo containers transporting a wide range of goods pass through the port. Cruise terminals deal with supplies, passengers and baggage. At ports the challenge is to detect radioactive materials efficiently without slowing down the flow of commerce, be it goods or people.


Radiation detection products are valuable tools to assist in countering these threats. The UK company Rapiscan Systems Ltd, an industry leader in security screening equipment, has deployed thousands of radiation detection products around the world to detect illicitly trafficked radioactive and nuclear materials. Rapiscan’s radiation portal monitors passively inspect vehicles, trains, cargo, people and packages during transit. If radiation is detected, the system immediately alarms with a flashing light and siren to alert a nearby inspector or covertly alert officials in a remote control room, who monitor detections via closed circuit television.

In the Caribbean region, ports in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico and Panama have Rapiscan’s TSA radiation portal monitors (RPMs). These countries are part of an international effort to deter, detect and interdict illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials within and across international borders and through the maritime shipping system.

The same approaches currently used for radiation inspection of cargo containers at seaports can be expanded to cruise terminals as well. Remember, only a small quantity of radioactive material is needed for a dirty bomb, so it could be included in supplies being delivered to a cruise ship. Just as easily, a radioactive source could be carried in a person’s pocket, purse or backpack and appear as a non-threatening object like a metal button or coin.

To help scan crowds, mobile and transportable radiation detection systems can inspect large areas around a site for radioactive threats. For example, in an arrivals or departures terminal, security personnel could walk around wearing backpack monitors, which covertly scan for radiation. Additionally, when people pass through a security checkpoint, they can be simultaneously checked for radiation and metal while their baggage is scanned for radiation and screened by X-ray. This multilayered solution discreetly and efficiently increases the safety of the people boarding a ship. And after crowds depart, all of the radiation inspection equipment can be easily removed and stored for future use.


Let’s keep global commerce in motion. Seaports want to maximize their throughput and capacity to increase productivity and profit, so time and space are very valuable. Increasing security can be viewed as an obstacle to achieving these goals, but it does not have to have a negative impact on business. By identifying natural ‘choke points’ within existing traffic patterns, developing efficient procedures and integrating radiation inspection capability, ports can increase both security and throughput without increasing the footprint or personnel requirements of a checkpoint.

For example, in 2009 the Port Authority of Puerto Rico chose to work with S2 Global Inc, a strategic partner of Rapiscan Systems, to provide security scanning services that include Rapiscan cargo equipment, continuous training and maintenance, integration and networking and operation and image analysis to mitigate the import of narcotics, arms and other contraband or undeclared goods. S2’s comprehensive security screening solution provides a high-throughput site that can scan up to 100 per cent of imported cargo, making the Port of San Juan compliant with US-mandated screening processes and enabling the tax authority to collect correct revenues. As this case demonstrates, ports can work together with industry to dramatically increase their screening capabilities to address security, economic and public health concerns by using the latest inspection technologies.

Rapiscan offers a number of comprehensive security inspection products that can be closely integrated with radiation detection to achieve seamless and powerful inspection capabilities. Such products can be deployed in a practical security solution that meets seaports’ technical and operational requirements and addresses the myriad threats they face. Together we can safely keep global commerce in motion.





Look before you leap…

It’s well worth doing your homework before investing in a maritime surveillance system

By Daniel Morehead

Drawing on more than 100 collective years in the maritime security domain, OCEANS LLC – a firm of Subject Matter Experts working for various governments, research academic institutions and private companies – has witnessed a multitude of systems, integrators and designers all promising to solve surveillance problems.

The reality for clients is that the only ‘problem’ that is generally solved is salespeople making their quota off the back of companies needing the surveillance. That is not to say all maritime security companies are out to sell you a system you don’t need, but they are out there. As maritime professionals, there are steps you can take to guard yourself against a costly long-term mistake for you and your company.


1. Determine your specific needs and possible future requirements

Once you’ve determined your need to purchase or upgrade your surveillance system, it is imperative that you specify the exact requirements you wish to fill. These requirements are derived from operational locations, known threat profiles and often legal statutes. Your specific requirements should act as the gatekeeper for any would-be vendor. Without specifying these requirements to potential contractors, you will likely find that they will create your requirements – and, surprisingly, they will be the only ones that can fulfill that requirement. Funny how that works out!

By far the best sources to help you determine your needs and requirements already exist in your sphere of influence. If you are managing shipping companies, call your captains for input. Ship captains generally have strong opinions on what exactly they need for safe passage as well as preferred system usability. If you are managing landside port operations, contact your local law enforcement. Often-times they will be willing to come and survey your system and make unbiased recommendations as to your specific needs.

Non-profit groups such as Save Our Seafarers and ASIS are also great organizations that can connect you to specific resources. The key thing to remember is to utilize your resources, especially the ones that don’t have a vested financial interest in you buying the next greatest and untested widget that will magically solve all your needs.

2. Involve your acquisition department at every possible step

Accountants are not security officers and vice versa. However, interfacing and working with your accounting department can severely increase the chances of drafting a successful Request For Proposal (RFP). Engineering change orders, maintenance contracts, software licenses; these are all things that can explode your budget without much effort. It is imperative that, during the RFP formulation process, these hidden costs are brought to light, negotiated and understood. Maritime security is not a profit-maker to accounting and management; however, we all understand the costs of neglecting this expense. Companies that enter into the acquisition process with an eye towards True Cost to Own generally do not experience the yearly budgetary battles of maintaining their systems.

A fully engaged and involved acquisition department can also be your strongest asset in ensuring successful project management of whichever system you ultimately select. When payment of services to vendors is tied very specifically to deliverables such as work breakdown structures, installation plans, ‘as built’ drawings, etc, the quality of service and vendor responsiveness tends to increase dramatically. Again, funny how that works out!

3. Remember: ‘can’ is not ‘has’

One of the largest feature-creeping, budget-busting landmines that OCEANS LLC has seen in both commercial and governmental sourced security and surveillance systems is when clients unknowingly asks vendors: “Can you do (fill in the blank)?”

The answer to this question will always be a resounding “Yes!” And in all fairness, given enough time and money, the answer is always yes. However, in the reality of constrained budgets and over-eager vendors, the more applicable question to ask is “Have you done this before?” to be followed up with: “Has this proposed technical solution been deployed in this configuration before?”

If the answer is no, then you should realize you are not getting the promised ‘turnkey’ solution; you are buying a science project. And unless you are in the research and development business, a science project probably isn’t what you want. Science projects have a strong tendency to severely blow out your project’s budget well before the system is handed over. If the answer is yes, however, the very next step is to call up that company or agency and ask them for a referral from someone who actually operates the system. Management usually only hears about systems when they are broken. If, however, the system is not being utilized because the operators find it too confusing or unresponsive, management sometimes assumes that it must be working great. After all, it isn’t hearing any complaints!

There is a saying in the maritime and port security world that once you’ve seen one port, you’ve seen ONE PORT. This speaks to the truth that every installation is going to have its own specific challenges. However, mitigating the amount of specialized software development, unique integration scenarios and exotic technological solutions will ultimately help reduce the risk of your system becoming so specialized that you become tied, technologically and financially, to only one supplier, vendor or integrator for the life of the project.

This list is not all-inclusive, of course. There is a myriad of potentialities that must be taken into consideration while navigating the selection process for security systems. OCEANS’ hope is that, by employing some of the information in this article, you can avoid some of the more common selection mistakes and ultimately acquire a strong requirements-driven solution that will be an asset to your organization for the long term.

Fair winds and following seas, shipmates!

Daniel Brent Morehead is CEO of Ocean County Engineering & Applied Nautical Services LLC