Enhancing port security



Jenny Gyngell, project manager for SUPPORT, BMT Group Ltd, London, UK



With the threat of international terrorism still looming large, port security remains of paramount importance to Europe, not only due to the direct threats to life and property, but for the potential economic damage that can arise from the effects on the relevant supply chains. With the introduction of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code in 2004, it is evident that much work has been done to tackle security issues, however, many would argue that there is still too much disparity between member states. As such, funding of approximately 14 million has been secured in a European Commission (EC) sponsored project called Security UPgrade for PORTs (SUPPORT), the aim of which is to help improve port security in major and minor European ports, as well as increase trade flow through these vital channels.

The challenges

About 90 percent of the EU’s external trade and 40 percent of internal trade is transported by sea. This corresponds to 3.5 billion tonnes of freight loaded and unloaded in EU ports each year. While individual port security breaches may cause much damage in themselves, the disruption that such security incidents cause to the supply chains can also become very costly. Thus, port security remains of paramount importance. However, as a concept, it is treated very differently, depending on the EU member state in question. In some countries, port security is provided by a combination of military and police forces. In others, it is a commercial arrangement where private enterprises hire private security companies. Herewith lies the problem – there is no European-wide appreciation and handling of port security matters.

Although the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), FRONTEX and EUROPOL all touch upon port security, the biggest drawback is that they have no executive powers and therefore cannot control national operations. Furthermore, it would seem that the introduction of the ISPS Code, despite costing billions of dollars around the world, is perceived by many in the industry as something which has provided little benefit. The main issue is the fact that the legislation does not mandate specific security measures and provide the necessary consultation of how to implement them. There is no specification for basic requirements, such as fence quality or the frequency of security patrols. Consequently, this lack of detail has led to a situation whereby there are vast differences within the EU in how the ISPS Code has been implemented. Whilst some ports have interpreted the ISPS Code requirements for protected facilities in such a way that they require the use of code cards, fences, CCTV and alert systems, other ports believe that a simple yellow line around the terminal boundary is sufficient enough in order to comply. Clearly this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs.

Add to this the fact that the majority of ports see security as a low priority issue and the challenges are exacerbated. Many ports believe that the chance of a terror threat to their facility is low or in some cases, non-existent and that matters relating to terrorism are already being dealt with by the police and the military. Therefore, there is often reluctance by terminal operators to invest money in security measures that do not directly protect their income.

The SUPPORT research project

It is within this challenging domain that the SUPPORT research project aims to bring about positive change to enhance port security within the EU, without the need for extra investment. The project is being led by BMT Group Ltd, the international maritime design, engineering and risk management consultancy, with a consortium consisting of 19 other experienced companies, including transport service providers (Securitas, Port of Piraeus, Europhar, Stena, Marac Electronics), port associations (EcoSLC), port administrations (Maritime Administration of Latvia) and transport research consultancies (FOI, VTT, Marintek, Marlo, NECL, INLECOM, eBOS, University of Innsbruck and INRIA). With so many partners involved, robust communication is paramount to ensuring the project stays on track and effectively addresses all of the issues surrounding port security in Europe.

The first part of the project, described as the analysis phase, was recently completed and saw the consortium study existing legislation, identifying drawbacks, gaps and ambiguities. One of the important outputs from this work was the introduction of a reference model for ports across Europe. Titled ‘Port Nowhere’, this model brings together around 1300 ports and 4000 ISPS facilities across Europe in order to better understand how they operate, whilst identifying commonalities.

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