Improving security through focused collaboration



Page Siplon, Executive Director, Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, Savannah, GA, USA


Henry Ford, a famous American and founder of the Ford Motor Company in Detroit Michigan, in 1903 said: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success”.

This statement still rings true in the 21st century and certainly applies to the monumental task of securing our nation’s ports and its cargo against attacks and threats of any kind. The port community in Savannah, Georgia provides one example of how working together can improve the ability to identify common threats and the interoperability of communication to respond to those threats. By creating a collaborative environment for sharing secure sensitive information, the port is advancing a comprehensive and coordinated response to risk mitigation.

Coming together is a beginning

At its inception, the Center of Innovation for Logistics (COI) focused on maritime-related logistics concerns and began a close collaborative partnership with the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), which continues today. This partnership has since grown and, while it still includes a strong maritime base of activity, now also incorporates a broader perspective on the ecosystem we often refer to as a supply-chain or logistics.

This growth is important because while the volume of containerized cargo flowing across the docks in Savannah is growing faster than any other port in the US, the availability, efficiency and reliability of the other stakeholders involved in moving that cargo inland to its ultimate customers is equally important. These stakeholders span the private industry sectors of trucking, 3PLs, forwarders, brokers, and railroads – just to name a few.

The COI acts as a facilitator in helping to connect Problem- Holders with Problem-Solvers, by leveraging university research and private technology to address the specific challenges faced by the industry. One constant area of focus is the security of cargo and the terminals shipping and receiving it. Specific areas of current exploration related to security that the Center and its industry and research partners are engaged in include: interoperable communications, electronic container security tags, damage recognition, information sharing, and maritime domain awareness.

However, with most in the port community facing many of the same security challenges (including regulations and mandates) and deploying similar technologies and systems to meet these demands, it makes sense to try and connect them and create a common network that benefits everyone involved.

This is just what the GPA is doing. With funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, GPA issued a request for proposal and successfully selected a team of technology providers to begin the creation of the ‘Savannah River Intrusion Network’. The concept for the network is to provide a sensorbased system that provides 24/7 visual coverage of the Savannah River Port area.

The primary effort of the Network initially is to detect, identify, evaluate and watch all the river traffic within the area 24 hours a day, through a strategically located network of both fixedand PTZ cameras. GPA is building a network of cameras, radar and other systems able to track ships on the river with video feeds that can be shared amongst other port users, includingenforcement agencies and first responders. While it took the leadership of the GPA to drive this idea forward, this innovative concept would not be realized without the collaboration and cooperation of the others in the port community, both public and private.

Keeping together is progress

Security-related issues occur daily, and require a complementary ‘big-picture’ approach to link together these broader challenges and conversations. To help satisfy this need, the Savannah River Secur ity Alliance (SRSA) was inaugurated under the leadership of the COI for Logistics. The SRSA is an alliance among stakeholders who share the common goal of facilitating the improvement of the overall security of the Port of Savannah. The SRSA is established as a regional, voluntary, non-compensated alliance, consisting of affiliated government agencies and private businesses with immediate proximity to the Port of Savannah and the Savannah River. It is comprised of waterfront terminal operators, local first responders, state and federal agencies.

The purpose of the SRSA is to provide a protected and private forum for sharing best practices, as well as opportunities regarding the improvement of the security of the Port of Savannah. Simply, the SRSA exists to “educate, share and communicate” topics and activity related to security in Savannah’s port community. Because of the increasing prevalence of technology in security solutions, the SRSA also affords members the opportunity to stay abreast of the latest in technology advancements related to security and efficient port operations. The SRSA coordinates periodic training classes from DHS and other agencies, and is working with the USCG to ar range more frequent, and comprehensive port-wide exercises.

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