Advancing technology makes for safer seaports



Alex Carmichael, British Security Industry Association (BSIA), Worcester, UK


Security technology is developing at a rapid rate, both in terms of affordability and potential. Progress is such that it is now more essential than ever for users to make sure they choose the right suppliers of equipment and services, reports Alex Carmichael of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA).


Security at a modern seaport is at the centre of a complex and multi-faceted challenge. Issues such as the protection of valuable cargos, controlling the movement of people and contraband across international borders and more recently the risk of terrorist attack has brought maritime security to the forefront.

Seaports demonstrate the principle that different sites possess unique features that influence the design and operation of security measures. Their sheer size, the need for widely dispersed multiple points of access and the constant need to accommodate high volumes of people and traffic provide a classic example of the importance of integration and flexibility.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), since the 9-11 attacks has set new port security standards – the International Ship and Port Security Code (ISPS). The code, which came into force in July 2004, recognises these complexities and rightly takes the approach that security is a risk management activity that demands a detailed assessment in each particular case.

Physical protection

Security planning begins with an appreciation of the role of physical protection. If access is to be controlled, it must clearly be channelled, which in turn means that perimeters as a whole need to provide a meaningful barrier.  The technology now exists whereby most types of fence and gate can be fitted with effective detection technology, which typically comprise a sensor cable attached to an analyser capable of interpreting the different kind of vibrations caused by intruders.

Another type of fence-based security system works by delivering a short painful but otherwise harmless, electric shock to anyone attempting to cut, climb or tamper with the fence. A code of practice, PAS 47 that is expected to lead to the publication of a British or European Standard, now governs the use of this technology.


Monitor ing is obviously a key component of any such perimeter protection, and fence detector outputs are designed to interface with on-site alarms or CCTV systems, ensuring an ability to investigate and respond to any interference. Modern security technology is making the key element of surveillance increasingly effective and affordable by enabling the centralised control of security over the largest of installations.

The advent of digital video has now eliminated all the former constraints on transmission distance. Digital quality, real-time images can be transmitted via Local and Wide Area Networks and Internet links and viewed literally anywhere, allowing centralised monitoring across even the largest ports.

Detector-activated and remotely monitored CCTV is now subject to a clear set of standards, BS 8418, which governs the use of cameras and detectors linked to a Remote Video Response Centre (RVRC) to provide 24/7 eventdrivenmonitoring.

The impact of large-scale production on the cost of digital technology is already helping to bring this capability within the grasp of many more users.

A recent installation for Associated British Ports at Southampton Docks by a BSIA member company also demonstrated the flexibility of modern surveillance systemsby combining a variety of techniques to transmit images across the network including both wired and wireless video-over-IP.

This ability to match technology to local circumstances highlights another key aspect of today’s technology; namely, that the ability to integrate different transmission methods enables the unlimited expansion of both new and existing systems.

Access control

Another BSIA company recently showed how the same flexibility could be applied to access control technology with an installation for the Port of Cork. Spread over a 15-kilometre site, the port’s access control clearly required remote monitoring and a system was designed to combine intelligent card readers with an Ethernet connection to extend the system to remote buildings and enable central, remote monitoring of movements throughout the port, regardless of distance.

The installation combines a facility for the port to design and print its own security passes incorporating personnel images, company logo, individual signatures and other information. Access to monitored buildings and checkpoints across the port is limited to authorised cardholders.

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