In Latin America and in the United States (USA), seaports are a driving force for the economy. However, seaports are vulnerable to risks threatening the national security of all countries, because these are places of departure and arrival in terms of international trade. That is why authorities must reinforce and implement strategies and technologies in order to deal with the existing as well as the new threats that compromise these locations.
José Barone, CEO of R. Barone Seguridad, affirmed that ports generally have been expanding for several years because of different factors that range from the economic expansion of the countries in the region, the acceleration of commercial exchanges, and an increase in tourism.
“Today, even if the movement of containers in Mexico was reduced (in 2014 contracted by 9.2% in comparison with 2013), the expectations for the new government compel us to think in strengthening security within seaports in the case of an increased activity”, he stated.
According to Randy Parsons, Security Officer of the port of Long Beach, located in California, USA, the focus of security at seaports must be on the arrival of large ships and on vessels with many containers, because that leads to a higher traffic inside the port, both at terrestrial and maritime spaces.
Risks and threats
Due to the fact that ports are part of the critical infrastructure sector, the risks that may occur at those locations every day constitute a challenge for the national security of every country, because these risks include robberies, smuggling of weapons and chemicals, human trafficking, terrorism, etc. For this reason it is important to monitor all the critical areas where a crime may occur or any illicit good may enter or exit.
Barone explained that due to an increased commercial exchange, the amount of vessels that transport goods has grown. The difficulties that arise from speeding up the loading and unloading of containers have caused an increase in the waiting times inside the port that, besides generating costs for inefficiencies, constitute a potential risk in terms of robbery of goods and problems of environmental impact due to possible oil spills.
Arturo Arcos, regional sales manager for Axis Communications, mentioned that in many cases there are foreign vessels that send boats to the sea before arriving to the ports, so that these are unloaded at unattended spots. He explained that organized gangs can use these vessels and load them with drugs or use them for trafficking people, firearms, etc.
He indicated that on land there is also a very strong control inside ports because the aim is to avoid the arrival or exit of illegal goods; that is the reason why it is necessary to identify who enters or leaves, as well as to maintain a monitoring inside the facilities in order to verify that those people are headed towards the place they indicated, and avoid that they leave documents or boxes on the way.
Regarding the risks within the port perimeter, the objective is to avoid that the most remote areas are used to take away goods that were not authorized to enter the country, because in those locations have been found some individuals who try to take away products that should go through customs legally, he stated.
On the other hand, Parsons asserted that ports constitute strategic sectors of the economy, and for that reason port authorities should always stay informed about the intelligence protocols set out by the government regarding terrorism, due to the fact that these locations are potential targets because of the economic importance they have locally or nationally. He noted, for example, that the port areas of Long Beach and Los Ángeles have an annual flow of about 15 million containers. The authorities have to pay close attention to this.
He stated that the American ports have been more vulnerable to the risk of firearms trafficking, which has been increasing during the last few years due to the cultural phenomenon of terrorism that has emerged worldwide. However, he added that many specialists have been working to solve that problem.
Technologies for the protection of ports
With the increase of commercial exchanges in trade ports and of the influx of people in touristic ports, it becomes necessary to have a video surveillance system and access controls that make possible to identify potential causes of conflict. Likewise, technological advances allow to accelerate processing times such as the identification of assets, the posting of cargo volumes and people moving in specific areas, said Barone.
In port areas there is generally an Automatic Identification System (AIS), which establishes a direct communication with the port that is different from the traditional alarms, and that makes possible to identify critical situations such as armed attacks, terrorism, or piracy, he added.
Regarding electronic systems, he affirmed that the different functionalities of the surveillance cameras that are part of the security circuit allow to detect not only intrusions into restricted areas, but also gas leaks or chemical spills. These systems use technology based on video analysis and allow, for example, the creation of a virtual perimeter, and the scanning and observation of the waters within the port limits, as well as the identification and monitoring of individuals and vessels.
Furthermore, Gustavo Gassmann, Business Unit Manager for the access control of HID Global in Latin America, noted that a combined and integrated electronic security can help in the monitoring of all individuals and vehicles that arrive and leave, as well as to place “eyes” at all areas of the port through surveillance videos, the traceability of assets (trucks, individuals by Radio Frequency IDentification —RFID—), as well as related systems, without forgetting effective fire prevention and firefighting systems, which are essencial at locations with so high traffic such as ports.
Arcos stated that using surveillance video systems is very important for the protection of ports because, for example, when there are speedboats on the sea at five or seven kilometers from the port, the use of thermal cameras makes it possible to follow those boats so that when they arrive on land the police and the federal forces are already there waiting.
On the other hand, Parsons stated that in Long Beach authorities have paid special attention to the technical equipments for monitoring, and for that reason the port has a surveillance network around the perimeter, as well as an access system very monitored that allows to identify precisely the entries and exits of all terminals and security areas.
“Since the incident that occurred in China on August 11th, 2015, when several big explosions caused by a leak of chemical gases affected the Tianjin port, we pay special attention to dangerous goods and we have developed new plans in order to control the stay and transport of that kind of materials”, he said.
He added that they also are working on the development of a tracking and identification system more efficient that makes it possible to know where the shipments more valuable or dangerous are not only inside the port but also during their transportation.
“We have implemented the first automated terminal in USA, which is going to work only with computer systems, that is why we will focus our efforts on preventing any kind of computer threats. This innovation will enable us to learn and manage in a better way these new systems that will likely be the future of all port operations in future years”, he stressed.
Challenges for the future
Despite the efforts implemented for the protection of ports, it is necessary to make constant updates in order to keep pace with the new types of crime that arise to threaten the safety of these areas, either with the help of technology or by using strategies implemented by the port authorities.
According to Barone, the main challenge in terms of security within seaports is the continued advance of technologies that make possible a better monitoring of shipments, individuals, and facilities. In that sense, he declared that the boom of the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or drones creates a very interesting opportunity in order to develop remote viewing systems.
In Parsons’ view, there are many factors that need to be taken in account regarding those challenges, one of the biggest being, he noted, how information about port operations is shared; therefore, the risks and benefits of turning Long Beach’s information in something public are being explored.
Write a comment