Port security has too often lagged behind the demands of ever more vulnerable facilities with new technology often being deployed as an after-market add-on, rather than a homogenous part of the port’s day to day working. With new ports being developed on green or brown-field sites across the globe, it is now possible to design-in security from the planning stage.
Dr. Mark Yong, Business Development Director for BMT, outlines the scale of the challenge and explains how port planners can help operational security.
With the threat of international terrorism looming, port security remains of paramount importance, not only due to the direct threats to life and property, but for the potential economic damage that can arise from effects on supply chains. Maritime transport is essential to the world’s economy as over 90% of the world’s trade is carried by sea and it is, by far, the most cost-effective way to move en masse goods and raw materials around the world. Unsurprisingly, the contemporary sea port is a vital cog in the massive machine that is 21st Century commerce and vital to maintaining both global and individual countries’ economic wellbeing. Consequently, port security affects all stakeholders within the cargo operating and port logistics chain and beyond. Furthermore, ports are becoming more multimodal, introducing wider area concerns where cargo is being moved between a number of operators. There is also the additional risk of limited investment by terminal operators in security measures that do not directly protect their income streams, creating the potential for security gaps due to strained government security resources.
With the introduction of the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code in 2004, much work has been done to tackle security issues. ISPS is a key element of legislation as it regulates security on-board ships, as well as inside ports and terminals which receive seagoing vessels on international voyages. To date, 148 flag or coastal states around the world have committed to the ISPS Code following its initial deployment in 2004 and now have a legal obligation to comply with its requirements and to submit information to the IMO. However, there may be disparity between member states and cargo operators and organisations, partly due to the way that European legislation has been deployed. Soon after the IMO’s deployment of the ISPS code, the European Commission issued Directive 725 – its own contribution to reinforcing port and shipping security across the European Union (EU). Directive 725 is identical to the ISPS code in content, but all European national authorities are obliged to comply with it in accordance with the 1958 Treaty of Rome and the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht. Unfortunately, through a twist of European law, EU Directives require member states to achieve a particular result without dictating the means of achieving that result. Consequently, the ISPS code was implemented by 21 EU countries, each in a different way without any homogenisation of approach or standardisation. In some countries, port security is provided by a combination of military and police forces whereas in others, it is provided by private enterprises. This ad-hoc deployment of security may hinder industry-wide appreciation, standardisation and handling of port security matters. Without a Pan-European Federal Agency like the US’s Department of Homeland Security, the European Union has no power to compel member states to work together or to follow prescriptive guidelines.
When considering port security during the master planning stage, ports need to factor in the necessary and sufficient security level to satisfy evolving international regulations and standards, while efficiently supporting the complexity of the real port environment. This includes facilitation of efficient and, where required, real-time exchange of security related information within the supply chain and between ports, port stakeholders (agents, shippers etc) and authorities.
There needs to be a cost-benefit analysis to identify the main security gaps and measures to maintain or augment the efficient and secure operation of the ports, combining creative and analytical techniques. Selection of the most appropriate IT infrastructure can help improve data security, as well as making critical information available in real time. Peer-to-peer communication and decision support can be helped by incorporating semantic technologies and using standard, open architecture software wherever possible, which in turn will make upgrades and integration with new systems more manageable. The importance of keeping the port’s network secure while making it accessible to all the port security stakeholders cannot be overstated.
Roles of key personnel and organisations need to be clearly defined so that there is satisfactory interaction for freight transport to be as efficient as possible through a series of transport operations. Having the ability to adapt to change quickly when required due to security considerations and interactions is also key. Standardisation of training for port personnel, terminal operators and stakeholders operating within the port authorities’ jurisdiction is another significant area that is often overlooked and can deliver significant benefits.
In planning for movement of cargo through ports, emergency scenarios should be taken into account, especially emergency evacuation involving large numbers of people from passenger vessels in case of terrorist activity or fire for example. (the IMO MSC 1033 evacuation analysis protocol specifies an assembly time and congestion criteria for safe evacuation). How this will affect cargo operations within the port area i.e. the need to redirect port traffic, should be considered.
New technology can be a key enabler in improving port security, but the additional time and physical space required for scanning and inspection must be built into the port’s logistical flow. The positioning and number of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) systems and other surveillance technologies, transhipment security systems, as well as the interface with truck and rail transportation must reflect the volume cargo and ideal flow through the facility, to prevent bottlenecks or abortive movements. Assets should manage security while making the best use of data which can benefit other parts of the ports operations, such as logging throughput, logjams and vessel traffic movements. This will help minimise delays and add to commercial understanding of port throughput and efficiency.
While there is no magic spell to deploying a port security system that is both rigorous and flexible enough not to disrupt the rapid through-put of cargo, intuitive and innovative port planning can help improve the intrinsic security of a facility. With port security climbing higher up both corporate and government agendas, can developers risk not addressing these issues at the planning stage?