Alfapass: A project for facilitating identification and access of visitors of Port Facilities



Ernie Scheerlinck, General Manager, Seagha, Antwerp, Belgium


The implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility (ISPS) Code as of July 1st 2004 has changed things greatly as far as access to port facilities is concerned. The ISPS Code is a ‘code of conduct’ between a number of parties involved in maritime transport with the aim to improve safety of such transport. An important party involved is the ‘Port Facility’ generally known as a ‘terminal’ of some kind.

Preparing for the ISPS Code

During the last quarter of 2003, the Antwerp Port Community started working on preparing for the implementation of the ISPS Code. Within the ISPS Code there were some recommendations on what to do as far as protecting the perimeter and dealing with access control and identification of visitors. Unfortunately, the ISPS Code did not go as far as making it clear on how to do this. It was left to the good judgment of the companies involved. Knowing this, the Antwerp Port Community started working on a common view and system to easily identify and log visitors of port facilities. The Port of Antwerp also hosts an important cluster of petrochemical plants (2nd largest in the world). These plants overnight also became, according to the ISPS directive, port facilities. Everybody wanted to avoid a situation where every frequent visitor of multiple port facilities needed to carry a separate ID-card for each individual port facility. First order of the day was to take inventory of any operational system used for the identification of visitors and/or access control. These could also be systems originally designed for ‘time and attendance.’ In view of this, the work group launched a project aimed to take inventory of the existing systems in the ports of Belgium, thus not limiting the project to Antwerp only. More than 100 companies representing some 130 port facilities were contacted and asked to complete a web based questionnaire.

More than 90% of the consulted companies completed the more than a 160 question questionnaire. As was more or less expected, the traditional cargo handling companies responded as not having any systems operational for access control and identification of visitors.

The next step was to involve two MBA students to compile the results, research the needs of the sector and make recommendations. This was a chosen approach to avoid any biased view on the possible solution. The findings and recommendations of the two researchers were proposed to a group of experts who answered a few binary questions:

1. Do we need a centralised system for issuing and managing a ID-card system?

a. Answer: YES

2. Does this project need to be managed centrally with the strictest neutrality?

a. Answer: YES

b. Obvious choice to run it operationally is Seagha, already the ICT organization of the maritime sector and neutral by concept.

3. Do we need to integrate biometrics in the project?

a. Answer: YES, but not yet sure if we will use a hand scan or a fingerprint scan.

4. Do we need the possibility of integrating the withheld technology in the operational systems of the port facilities?

a. Answer: YES, the technology must also be able to support the internal logistic processes of a port facility.

5. Do we need a centralised access control system?

a. Answer: NO, each port facility must be free to choose a provider for an access control system.

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