Surveillance for Critical Infrastructure - Ports and Harbors

Unfortunately the 21st century has ushered in an age of security threats to critical infrastructure like power generating plants, refineries, natural gas lines, airports and other key energy, transportation and communication centers across the country. On 9/11 what could only be imagined in nightmares became reality and we have been reminded daily that both governments and private industry are vulnerable to new, vicious attacks.

Of particular concern are ports. Because of their unique vulnerabilities they represent special security challenges both in the prevention/detection of terrorism and identifying domestic criminal activity. Louisiana has over 30 ports in the state including 5 deep draft facilities and 8 shallow draft coastal ports. Maintaining security and safety at these critical infrastructures is a demanding task.

Balancing Security with Economic Viability

Even before the external terrorist threat ports have had a history of cargo theft, black market transactions, illegal entry and smuggling. Toss in potentially disastrous cargos like petroleum products and chemicals and the fact that access by waterway is always open and ports become exceptionally cumbersome infrastructure for port authorities and commercial tenants to manage and control.

To have absolute security in most ports would take an army of security personnel and draconian access requirements the cost of which would most likely exceed the value of the trade conducted. Ports are essential to commerce and striking a balance between the cost of security and safety procedures and the unfettered ability to conduct business.

Adding Intelligent Eyes

One way to get greater productivity from a security team or Harbor Police Force is to expand their ability to monitor the facility without the need for a physical presence like a fixed post or patrol. CCTV has been used for decades but always with limitations. However, the latest generation of digital surveillance cameras provides outstanding resolution, the ability to provide clear images in low light and a reporting capability that can virtually eliminate monotonous manual monitoring of dozens of screens.

Outdated surveillance systems come with a number of limitations, particularly those used to cover exterior areas in an industrial setting. Exposure to the elements takes its toll on cameras; particularly those with mechanical pan tilt and zoom features. Wind and rain frequently cause the triggering of motion detection systems causing false alarms and wasted response efforts. Storage and retrieval of images was another huge concern. The systems are necessary and often installed as a compromise between increased (and costly) security personnel and minimizing interruption of commerce.

In short they are cumbersome and do not inspire a high level of confidence.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

Really keeping an eye on things

Using MOBOTIX, a leading manufacturer of surveillance systems as an example, here are a few of the features available today that turn that make the old legacy system look like a Mathew Brady production:

  • Twin lens cameras optimized for daylight and super lowlight that provide clean crisp color images that capture the finest of details like license plate numbers and names of ships.
  • Exceptionally durable explosion proof enclosures with no moving parts. Pan and zoom are done digitally.
  • Up to 32 GB of storage onboard.
  • Minimization of false "motion" alarms thanks to a software update called MXActivitySensor. This software can discern the difference between motion of interest and extraneous motion. Windblown trash, rain and "stationary movement" like a pump going up and down are ignored.
  • Custom alarm parameters, reporting and responses can be input for each unit. Alarm notifications can be set to email, telephone or both. Of course if a central monitoring service is used they will have real time notification.
  • Images can be reviewed via browser. This means anyone with a password, including the security personnel, can access the images in real time from a PC, laptop or in the case of a security patrol, mobile device.
  • Management of the system is all performed online, is intuitive and comprehensive. Easy search and retrieval saves hours of time.

And this is just the beginning for a modern digital system. These systems can be installed permanently, temporarily, with or without an external power source and with or without an IP connection. Durability, flexibility and self-sustaining operations are the hallmarks of today's surveillance systems.

Hardware is just half the story. Evaluating risks and establishing a comprehensive surveillance plan is essential as well. If you have questions about your plan or equipment, feel free to contact us at 866-373-1999 and we will be happy to share our opinions.