An effective security threat shield: assessment, implementation, response



Alex Carmichael, Technical Director, BSIA, Worcester, UK


Good security is good for business, and ports can quantifiably benefit from protective measures more than most. As complex operations housing large quantities of valuable goods in transit, they represent a target for highly organised freight thieves as well as a significant potential risk in terms of attack by arsonists, protesters, vandals and terrorists. Adequate defences against CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives) type attacks are, post-9/11, also a necessity.

Alex Carmichael, BSIA Technical Director, considers the solutions. This summary may seem alarming, but the good news is that thorough risk assessments  combined with the implementation of appropriate procedures, cost effective systems and timely response will form a realistic shield against these threats.

It is important that security systems demonstrate their value in terms of practicality and ease of use. If the staff using them each day do not view them as an impediment or nuisance, they’re more likely to embrace the measures instead of seeking shortcuts.

Besides securing goods and the port’s infrastructure, such as its operating plant and buildings, security systems ranging from CCTV cameras to access control equipment and intrusion detection devices offer added value advantages. For instance, they can contribute towards staff health and safety whilst on-site.

Their reporting functions can also be used to help improve a port’s overall efficiency, for instance by showing how operational procedures could be improved. Moreover, when interfaced with building management systems, they can reduce energy consumption when areas are unmanned – helping pay for themselves and cutting the port’s carbon footprint.

Full compliance with the 2004 International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) is a commercial imperative too, since shipping operators will lose out on the opportunity to dock vessels at US ports if they come from a port that fails to meet it, for example. Ports that don’t comply with the three security levels referred to in the ISPS Code risk losing trade and money.

Surveillance approach

Helping these aims, security technology is providing substantial performance increases allied to reducing system costs as the economies of scale benefit areas such as digital surveillance recording. Replacing inflexible tape-based systems, digital video recording offers increased storage capacity without the need to change tapes every few hours and mark, log and store them, as well as replace them after the recommended 12 ‘passes’ through the analogue recorder.

By contrast, digitally recorded incidents can be tagged for fast retrieval and exported onto a variety of media if required by the police, for example. A BSIA code of  practice was recently developed into British Standard 8495:2007, an independent benchmark that customers can use when choosing a digital CCTV system. Ensuring that digital surveillance footage carr ies sufficient weight in court is clearly important and depends on factors including image quality and authenticity,
storage, playback and a comprehensive audit trail – all of which are covered by the Standard.

From an operational perspective, ports offer plenty of hiding places for intruders that breach the perimeter defences or find their way on-site by other means. Security lighting is therefore an important consideration, allowing the cameras to operate effectively using a mix of white or infrared light according to the circumstances. Thermal technology is now becoming a mainstream CCTV application, allowing camera operators and other security staff to detect a person at long distances –
typically up to 1 km – using a combination of sophisticated heat-based thermal imaging and high resolution optical capabilities, such as powerful zoom lenses.

Thermal imaging also spots intruders in darkness and adverse weather conditions including fog, mist, rain and snow. It’s being used, for example, at the Port of Calais and can spot people floating in the water who may be intent on attacking a moored vessel. These cameras can also be linked in to a port’s TCP/IP (Internet Protocol) local or wide area network (LAN/ WAN) without the need for disruptive or costly hardwired
links such as fibre optic cabling. Using such a network, they can be positioned in remote locations of the port for improved observation and controlled at the click of a mouse from the control room.

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