Choosing the right fence for different areas of a port environment



Colin Bates, Chairman, European Fencing Industry Association, Atherstone, UK


Whether you’re purchasing a general purpose fence or a high security system, investment in a new perimeter is of the highest importance. It is vital that you protect your investment with a methodical approach to design and planning and by carefully assessing the alternative fencing options available.

As part of this selection process, due consideration must be given to the quality of materials and workmanship that you are paying for. A poorly manufactured fence might look good for a short period of time, but is likely to fail or deteriorate thereafter. In this article we look at some of the key considerations to bear in mind.

A fence is often described as the first line of defence. However the level of protection offered will depend on a number of variables, including the size and layout of the area that needs protecting, the height required, the construction, material used and any other security extras which may need to be added on to the perimeter.

Key points to consider

Some key points that planners should consider when selecting a fencing system include:

Demarcation qualities: At the most basic level the fence needs to identify and establish limits/boundaries of the protected or restricted area. Put simply, it needs to separate land that is open to access from land that is not. If demarcation alone is your objective (and this may sometimes be enough) then higher security systems are not required and qualities such as cost, durability and aesthetics will come to the fore. However in most areas within port environments, security is likely to be a much bigger factor.

Deterrent qualities: Key, particularly when considering opportunist attacks, is the ability of the perimeter to deter trespass simply by presenting a secure appearance. For lower and medium security risk areas, a fence which deters intruders may fulfil the objective. Invariably this factor goes hand in hand with the next one, because the ability to deter depends partly on the ability to delay.

Ability to delay: The delay factor is usually considered one of the most important and it applies to lower risk areas as much as to higher ones. No fence will keep out determined intruders indefinitely if they are given enough time, but the objective of the fence designer is to slow down unauthorised access for as long as possible. Depending on the level of delay required, factors may need to be introduced into the design of the fence, such as anticlimb properties.

Detection methods: Critical to any higher security perimeter will be the detection measures in place allowing response to an attack. Prompt detection of attempts at unauthorised entry may be achieved by visual or electronic means, and may require the use of equipment such as acoustic alarms, sensors of various kinds, lighting and/or CCTV cameras.

With detection in mind good through vision/visibility is another important factor that needs to be considered. A fencing system should not, at any angle, produce areas of blindness which would interfere with detection of unusual behaviour activity, unwanted visitors/intruders.

Discretion: This is a factor often overlooked by planners whose key priority is security. The aesthetic quality of a high security fencing system is important and its visual impact on the surrounding environment should be taken into account. Unattractive and complex systems are often not welcomed and may be subject to rigorous resistance.

It may also be argued that a highly visible security perimeter actually alerts potential intruders (especially opportunists) to the existence of a high risk site or premises. It is a choice that the planner must make, following a considered risk assessment. A good quality risk assessment, if intelligence-led, not only helps you select the right type of fence, but it may also prove important in overcoming planning objections which do arise.

Best value

There are, of course, ‘best value’, factors which should be taken into account during any purchasing process. So what fits into a best value specifically when selecting a fence? The main considerations, when choosing between alternative options should be:

• The level of security provided
• Safety aspects and features
• Quality
• Price
• On time delivery
• Guarantee
• Material
• Installation
• Whole life costings

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