Role of biometrics in port security



David B McIntosh, Chief Executive Officer, OmniPerception Limited & Chairman of the International Association for Biometrics, Guildford, UK


Professionals operating in the maritime sector are well aware of the heightened concerns about the safety and security of ships, ports and the communities surrounding them. Since 9/11, fear of a similarly catastrophic event occurring in the maritime context has loomed large.

The need to tighten security in all areas is apparent, but in the context of port security the scale of the task is somewhat overwhelming.

Personal identity

Improved identity management is key to tightening security. Having confidence in who you are dealing with is crucial. Yet fraudulent access gained by staff  impersonation is currently the single most common cause of perimeter and secure area breaches in airports, ports and harbours.

If someone steals whatever ID tag or card is required to gain access, they can go where they like and pretty much do what they want. Existing systems – generally the plastic photo ID card – are not good enough to prevent this. Even if such an ID card has a PIN or password associated with it, it becomes only marginally more difficult to steal and use effectively.


The situation then is far from satisfactory, but what is to be done? Can new technology solve our problems in identity management? Are such systems relevant to real life activity in ports and harbours all around the world?

Biometric technology can indeed be of assistance in providing viable solutions…

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