The Port Protection Challenge


The Port of Long Beach, Calif., is an open port, operating on land granted it by the state. It includes highways and train tracks that run right alongside the port facilities.

In mid-April, Long Beach hosted part of the 2008 Toyota Grand Prix, a street race that ran through the city, creating—albeit for one day—radically different risks and vulnerabilities from those the port usually faces.

In the past, such an event might have caused enormous security headaches for those charged with protecting the port facilities from terrorist attacks or simple thefts and trespassing. But, according to Cosmo Perrone, the port’s security director, port security planning is now entering a phase where it is becoming more long range and predictive, rather than limited and reactive.

“Can you not start predicting these kinds of things and figuring out the deployments required long in advance and then ensuring that everyone who has a play in the port knows where everyone is going to be that day? And then perhaps minimize the need for additional resources in the future?” he asked, rhetorically.

The Port of Long Beach has boosted connections with its command and control operations to intelligence agencies, response agencies and other state and federal resources, greatly expanding the value of its sensor system through input from those authorities. At the same time, Perrone has embraced the US Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Risk Assessment Model (MSRAM), which enables dynamic risk assessments. Port security stakeholders can input variables for a given day and receive an analysis of how to manage risk and resources under those circumstances.

According to Perrone, the MSRAM process represents a significant improvement over static risk assessments, where inspectors write up an assessment and then somebody puts it on a shelf somewhere, rarely, if ever, to be consulted.

Cooperation required
The challenges at Long Beach illustrate how security officials and managers have only recently begun to make use of the diverse range of organizations that have a stake in the security of their ports. These decisionmakers—and the plans they draw up—are pooling their resources in permanent structures that take predictive looks at how events might impact their plans.

A seaport cannot simply exist anywhere. Seaports are tied to their geographic locations—their uses evolving over hundreds of years in the United States. Because access by water is confined to where water and appropriate landings meet, along with the appropriate supporting infrastructure, many different activities often commingle in individual seaports.

As a result of these circumstances, ports have evolved very fragmented security regimes that are remarkablydifferent from those of airports. About 18 US federal agencies hold responsibilities for maritime security regulations—in addition to all US states, seaside localities, ports authorities and owners of individual facilities that set up rules, establish security measures and enforce safety protocols.

By contrast, airports have existed for only about 75 years under a tightly controlled system of rules and regulations. Establishing an airport requires only a flat stretch of land where the stakeholders can build out the infrastructure and maintain aviation safety. Much of the structure and processes at individual US airports are the same, regardless of location, making them easier to subject to uniform federal regulations.

Ronald Boyd, chief of the Los Angeles Port Police, has witnessed this first hand. Formerly second in command for public safety at Los Angeles International Airport, Body recently took command of the Los Angeles Port Police. At the port, he was immediately struck by the efficiency of the local area maritime security committee (AMSC).

“I was impressed with the coordination of the area maritime security committee. I wanted to figure out why and what made it click,” Boyd told HSToday. “We were one of the first AMSCs to structure itself after the NIMS [National Incident Management System] model. We had a chain of command, laying the floor plan for how things would run, but we also had designated leaders and follow-on resources in the operations, planning, logistics and administration components of the NIMS structure.”

As a result of the planning, people in the field didn’t have to meet each other at an emergency or figure out their roles and responsibilities in relation to one another. They were already meeting, planning and training under NIMS, Boyd noted. He credited US Coast Guard Adm. Pete Messenger, the captain of the port (since departed), with the quick and effective adoption of the system.

Planning with a regional perspective has been particularly important to the port’s neighbor in the city of Long Beach. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have teamed up to create a new command-and-control center, which they will unveil later this year. At press time, contractors were setting up the fiber optic network that would connect cameras, underwater sensors and other sources of data together into one common operating picture shared by the two ports.

“We’ll have a joint coordination center that is specifically focused on a piece of critical infrastructure in the country where local, state and federal people will be in one room,” Boyd stated. “All of the data coming in will be fused into one facility within the Long Beach footprint, but it is a joint project between LA and Long Beach to secure port facilities. The types of technology going in there concern a number of interoperability systems to fuse radio and video data so that we can make decisions based on that data.”

The two ports are inextricably linked because they are so close together and a multitude of local, state and federal agencies protect them; together they account for more than 40 percent of containerized cargo coming into the United States.

“Through the new command-and-control center, we’re able to take a look at all of our technologies—whether they’re sonar, radar, cameras and so forth—and apply a security management platform through an integrator in an open architecture where all of these can work together rather than as individual components,” Perrone said.

Recovery plans
Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans in August 2005, destroying roughly 30 percent of the facilities at the Port of New Orleans and disrupting operations at the rest. The levy breaches wiped out port facilities on the industrial canal, but left those on the Mississippi River largely untouched.

“Everybody has a plan to prevent disaster, but nobody really has a big plan for recovery from a disaster,” Matt Gresham, spokesman for the Port of New Orleans told HSToday. “Following Hurricane Katrina, we wrote the book on recovery at the Port of New Orleans.”

Since then, port authorities have begun to consider recovery planning as part of a comprehensive and predictive security strategy. Working closely with the US Maritime Administration at the Department of Transportation, workers at the port quickly reestablished basic operations and received their first cargo ship within two weeks of the disaster. Unloading the ship required shipboard cranes and portable generators, but the port nevertheless swung into operation faster than many predicted.

Personnel, from longshoremen to the port chief executive officer, lived on six vessels provided by the Maritime Administration to get the port up and running. The ships provided necessary shelter for restoration of port operations because no facilities on land had electricity or running water, said Greshem, who lived shipboard for that period himself. Living onboard Maritime Administration vessels has now become official protocol for recovery operations.

Complete recovery took a little more time. The port calculated its average for ship calls and cargo tonnage for the five-year period before Hurricane Katrina and measured its successful rate from that. By the end of 2006, the Port of New Orleans was exceeding its previous five-year average as measured by cargo tonnage received in its facilities.

Now prepared to move forward, in March the port published a master plan that outlines about $1 billion in improvements, including security upgrades, to occur through 2020.

Many stakeholders, one card
Local port planning also must fall in line with federal security initiatives—the most visible of which at present is the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). The TWIC access card authenticates workers who have the right to enter specific port facilities to carry out their jobs. Hector Pesquera, assistant director for security at the Port of Miami, told HSToday that meeting the enrollment deadline of April 15, 2009, at his port would be a challenge—and he was on his way to obtain his own TWIC credential when he was contacted.

Pesquera was focused on getting the word out about TWIC to Miami-area transportation workers to avoid a last-minute crush of applications at the end of the enrollment period.

“We are trying to get these people to move. It starts with me, so I’m doing mine,” Pesquera observed. “Will it work? I don’t know. It hasn’t been implemented yet. In theory it should work, but concepts and theories are sometimes different than real life. How good are the scanners? How good are the systems? It should solve a lot of issues if it works.”

The Port of Miami receives federal inspections on its compliance with federal law, but it also receives state inspections from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. A team of inspectors visits the port twice a year, once announced and once unannounced, to ensure compliance with the port’s security plan and state regulations. The inspectors document vulnerabilities and items that need attention and report them to the port director.

“We face that inspection twice a year and we know that it is going to be very thorough. So the rest of the year, we consistently raise the bar in our security measures and make certain that we are in compliance when those inspections occur,” said Pesquera.

Immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, then-Gov. Jeb Bush ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to come up with disaster plans for the entire state. The department broke the state into seven regions, each represented by a regional domestic security task force. These task forces have developed and refined proactive, predictive security plans that encompass port security, Pesquera said.

The TWIC access card could strengthen communication and planning between the agencies responsible for port security planning, Pesquera concluded, but he is counting on the assistance of the Coast Guard, which has federal responsibility for enforcing TWIC compliance, in getting the word out and bringing people together to make it successful.

The Coast Guard steps in
When various port stakeholders come together to discuss security via their AMSCs or other groups, they often require federal guidance on what they must accomplish in their security planning, as well as a place where they can literally sit to meet face-to-face. That set of responsibilities falls to the US Coast Guard, which has plans to expand its port facilities and boost its ability to communicate with security personnel from many different organizations at once.

“If you’ve seen one port, you’ve seen one port,” according to Dana Goward, USCG director of maritime domain awareness. “That means that every solution set that we come up with for safety, security or commercial or environmental stewardship has to be tailored to that particular location.”

The Coast Guard cannot maintain port security alone because the USCG forces available for the job are small in comparison to the challenge. “The entire uniformed component of the US Coast Guard can fit into Nationals Park [Baseball Stadium] and still have extra seating for people who want to see the ballgame. We are a relatively small and widely scattered organization,” said Goward.

The Coast Guard is seeking increases in its manpower—300 this year and thousands of people in 2010, but that doesn’t begin to meet the need.

“So how do we do it?” Goward asked, rhetorically. “We try to bring together the coalition of all of the good guys in each one of the ports and cooperatively and collaboratively plan and execute rules and regimes and operations and we share the awareness of what is going on.”

To that end, the fiscal 2008 budget for the Department of Homeland Security provides the Coast Guard with initial funding to provide port security support under Command 21, an advanced command, control and communications scheme to help port stakeholders gather and share information. The fixed facilities provided by Command 21 would provide much needed permanence and stability to the efforts of local stakeholders to develop and enforce effective long-term security plans.

Command 21 has three major parts: It funds additional sensors for the Coast Guard; it literally creates more room and seats for port stakeholders to meet in Coast Guard facilities; and it establishes Watchkeeper, a human systems interface that “allows all of the existing sensors and databases to come together in one set of streams and to be displayed such that the important information is readily discernable,” Goward commented.

These parts of Command 21 will help the Coast Guard fulfill a requirement to establish interagency fusion centers under the SAFE Port Act.

“Sure, Command 21 is going to bring additional sensors, but as much as anything it’s going to help us make sense of and share the information that already exists,” Goward explained.

Nearly seven years after 9/11, port security is coming close to maturity. Port security personnel have been limited in the past by their inability to make the most of the resources available to them. Stovepipe systems that make it difficult to share important intelligence limited the sights of security personnel, while a web of government agencies, first responders, shipping companies, manufacturing companies, transportation workers, and many others lacked the means to come together to contribute to truly comprehensive security assessments.

The United States, in conjunction with its international maritime partners, is finally laying the groundwork that could enable all port security stakeholders to share a common view of their challenges in ensuring the safe delivery of goods to the US economy, while preventing or mitigating the impact of terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

That it has taken this long for federal leadership to enact plans to provide rudimentary requirements, such as enough meeting space and common identification cards, to port security personnel nationwide speaks to the complexity of the challenge. To develop truly comprehensive risk assessment and predictive security planning in each port will continue to require the close cooperation of not only local port authorities but a federal government committed to following through on the success of its maritime security programs. HST

TWICing the ports
Successful port security plans make smart use of technologies that enable access, surveillance and data analysis. Federal officials hope to enable the process of creating these plans and making them repeatable by issuing Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) access cards to personnel authorized to enter port facilities.

Under current plans, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has responsibility for enrollingworkers in TWIC while the Coast Guard enforces TWIC compliance. Local ports have the lead in implementing the TWIC program in their specific regions, Maurine Fanguy, TSA’s TWIC director, told HSToday.

“One of the things that is extremely challenging about a program like TWIC is that it is a national program, but we have to tailor our national approach to the regional stakeholders and the regional issues,” Fanguy explained. “It’s very different in this industry between the coastal waterways and the inland waterways. There are very different issues between the east coast, west coast, Great Lakes and Gulf coast. And there are different industries involved and various mixes in all of those places.

“Also, this is truly a multi-modal program. In ports, you have container terminals and vessels, but then you have trucks and railroads that come into some of these ports. Inland waterways have towing vessels and different operations,” she added.

As of press time, TSA had enrolled about 270,000 people in the TWIC program. About 90,000 of those had actually received TWIC cards. TSA also had established TWIC enrollment centers at 105 out of 147 locations. Fanguy anticipated setting up enrollment centers at all 147 locations by the end of summer.

Some ports have been embracing the security measure more broadly than others, which means TSA will exceed the original number of workers it predicted to enroll in TWIC. By the end of the enrollment process in April 2009, Fanguy estimates 1.2 million workers will have TWIC cards.

TSA depends on TWIC contractor Lockheed Martin to set up the enrollment centers and to provide technical support to transportation workers. The enrollment centers capture biographic and biometric information on registering workers, Alan Bloodgood, Lockheed Martin’s program director for TWIC, told HSToday.

“It’s a two-step process,” Bloodgood explained. “We capture the enrollment information. Once that person is vetted and deemed eligible for a card, then they come back to the enrollment center, at which point we ship the card to the site and then they will come in for the activation of the card. We will put the card in a reader and verify visually that we have the right person and also check their biometrics to ensure that the person to whom we give the card is the same person that enrolled.”

The number of enrollment centers at each location depends on the population of workers at the port. Lockheed Martin, Bethesda, Md., also will set up remote enrollment centers for companies or organizations that have large numbers of qualified workers at their facilities, so that those workers do not have to travel to the port to complete their enrollment.

TSA and the company also encourage qualified workers to pre-enroll online to speed up the process.

New surveillance and scanning
Surveillance of ships coming into a port and scanning of containers carried onboard ships are important elements of port security planning. The Coast Guard has responsibility for identifying vessels that pose a threat to ports and generally relies upon technology—in the form of radars and cameras—to assist with this task. Presently, the Coast Guard acquires these systems through the General Services Administration (GSA), Dana Goward, Coast Guard director of maritime domain awareness, told HSToday.

While the agency uses a wide range of technologies, it buys its radar systems mostly from Japan-based Furuno and Denmark-based Terma. The agency buys various camera systems that include long-range, lowlight, nighttime and infrared cameras.

It is also developing new sensors that it can rely upon when radars and cameras might not work.

“We are doing a number of things with the Department of Homeland Security’s Directorate of Science and Technology, such as developing small and inexpensive sonar buoy arrays so that we can tell when there issomebody out there who might be hard to see with radar and difficult to see with a camera,” Goward said.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has the job of scanning containers that come into ports to ensure that they contain no threat material, such as radiological substances terrorists may try to smuggle into the country.

American Science and Engineering Inc. (AS&E), based in Billerica, Mass., has been manufacturing X-ray devices used for such scanning by the federal government since the 1950s. Officers historically have used its mobile X-ray systems to scan for illegal drugs and goods, Joe Reiss, AS&E vice president of marketing, told HSToday.

“Clearly, the priority today is defined by weapons of mass destruction that may be concealed in cargo containers,” Reiss said. “That’s really a major impetus behind this market and a major thrust for the US government these days, especially US Customs and Border Protection and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office.”

CBP operations at the Port of Charleston, SC, for example, use the AS&E OmniView Gantry System. It includes conventional X-ray technology, which reveals contraband by transmitting X-rays through substances, as well as proprietary Z Backscatter X-Ray imaging, which reveals hidden substances through scattered X-rays.

X-rays react much like normal visible light in many ways, Reiss noted, in that sometimes materials absorb them, transmit them or scatter them.

“So we are generating X-rays based off scattering,” Reiss stated. “That is interesting for security purposes because different materials scatter X-rays differently, depending upon the type of material it is. Heavy materials, things made out of metals and so forth, tend not to scatter X-rays much at all. But less dense materials scatter X-rays to a high degree. A lot of threat items that people are interested in happen to be organic in nature.”

The company’s Z Backscatter Van, a vehicle-mounted version of the backscatter X-ray system, is the best-selling container or vehicle screening system ever produced by any manufacturer to date, Reiss asserted.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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