BMT: Port Security Should Not Be an Afterthought

Port security has too often lagged behind the demands of ever more vulnerable facilities with new technology often being deployed as an after-market add-on, rather than a homogenous part of a port’s day to day working, according to risk management consultancy BMT Group.

With new ports being developed on green or brown-field sites across the globe, it is now possible to design-in security from the planning stage, according to Dr. Mark Yong, Business Development Director for BMT.

When considering port security during the master planning stage, ports need to factor in the necessary and sufficient security level to satisfy evolving international regulations and standards, while efficiently supporting the complexity of the real port environment. This includes facilitation of efficient and, where required, real-time exchange of security related information within the supply chain and between ports, port stakeholders (agents, shippers etc) and authorities.

There needs to be a cost-benefit analysis to identify the main security gaps and measures to maintain or augment the efficient and secure operation of the ports, combining creative and analytical techniques.

Selection of the most appropriate IT infrastructure can help improve data security, as well as making critical information available in real time, according to Yong. Peer-to-peer communication and decision support can be helped by incorporating semantic technologies and using standard, open architecture software wherever possible, which in turn will make upgrades and integration with new systems more manageable. The importance of keeping the port’s network secure while making it accessible to all the port security stakeholders cannot be overstated, Yong says.

Roles of key personnel and organisations need to be clearly defined so that there is satisfactory interaction for freight transport to be as efficient as possible through a series of transport operations. Having the ability to adapt to change quickly when required due to security considerations and interactions is also key. Standardisation of training for port personnel, terminal operators and stakeholders operating within the port authorities’ jurisdiction is another significant area that is often overlooked and can deliver significant benefits.

In planning for movement of cargo through ports, Yong says that emergency scenarios should be taken into account, especially emergency evacuation involving large numbers of people from passenger vessels in case of terrorist activity or fire for example. How this will affect cargo operations within the port area i.e. the need to redirect port traffic, should also be considered.

New technology can be a key enabler in improving port security, but the additional time and physical space required for scanning and inspection must be built into the port’s logistical flow, Yong suggests.

The positioning and number of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) systems and other surveillance technologies, transshipment security systems, as well as the interface with truck and rail transportation must reflect the volume cargo and ideal flow through the facility, to prevent bottlenecks or abortive movements. Assets should manage security while making the best use of data which can benefit other parts of the ports operations, such as logging throughput, logjams and vessel traffic movements. This will help minimise delays and add to commercial understanding of port throughput and efficiency.

While there is no magic spell to deploying a port security system that is both rigorous and flexible enough not to disrupt the rapid through-put of cargo, intuitive and innovative port planning can help improve the intrinsic security of a facility.