Underwater surveillance and search tools for port security and safety



Steve Van Meter, ROV Consultant, Cocoa, Fl, USA


New Technology increases efficiency and safety, while reducing costs and staffing requirements

There are several basic challenges Port Management and First Responders face when dealing with threats and emergencies below the water line. Among these are:

• Response speed: An unexplained splash, a suspected drowning, evidence of drugs or explosives planted on a hull, or other underwater emergency, responding an hour later is often completely ineffectual.

• Water quality: Traditionally, human divers are the technology that is used to respond. While divers are very maneuverable and adaptable, health and safety regulations prevent them from entering some polluted water. Water temperature and depth limit the amount of time they can spend on a mission. Underwater hazards, particularly when the responding to a collapse or crash,can make it too dangerous to dive.

• Locating targets: The primary sensor that divers use is their eyes. The secondary sensor is their hands. This makes searching slow and dangerous when visibility is in the sub-meter range typical of many port environments.

Observation class remotely operated vehicles ( RO V ’s ) , provide an excellent answer to these concerns in harbours and ports throughout the world. It is currently estimated that 90 per cent of the ROV ’s u s e d i n p o r t security missions are the VideoRay ROV system. These inexpensive , portable ‘micro ROVs,’ are used for underwater port security at the largest and busiest ports in the US and worldwide. Ever y US Coast Guard Maritime

Safety and Security Team

(MSST) has a VideoRay system as standard equipment. Major ports such as New York City and Los Angles also rely on this technology to support their security efforts.

Their small size and low cost make it feasible to deploy several units throughout sprawling ports, so one is available for a rapid response regardless of where an emergency might occur. They are unaffected by water temperature, quality, or depth. They employ state of the art sonar technology to ‘see’ through murky water.
With a few days of training almost any officer can use them effectively as a collateral duty, further ensuring a rapid response to underwater emergencies.

There are three basic missions that encompass most of the underwater port security response scenarios for a commercial port:

1. Pier sweeps: Checking for explosive devices placed on or near a pier before the arrival of a high value asset (dignitary visit, or natural gas carrier.)

2. Hull sweeps: Checking for explosive devices, drugs or contraband placed on a hull of a cruise ship, military vessel or commercial cargo carrier.

3. Response to accidents involving pier or bridge collapses, vessel collisions, pipeline mishaps, etc.

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