PORT OF CORPUS CHRISTI TURNS TO TECHNOLOGY
Terrorism seemed like a remote threat at the sixth largest seaport in the U.S., the Port of Corpus Christi in Texas, where cargo is loaded and offloaded from ships traveling to and from Latin America, Europe, Africa and Russia. But with Sept. 11 came the realization that any major center of commerce could become a target.
With the realization has also come money. Flush with $10 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation for security upgrades, the Port of Corpus Christi has been reacting to the findings of two far-reaching analyses by the Coast Guard and an outside consultant. The reports found potentially troubling weaknesses — including the lack of a port security force, fencing, lighting or an integrated surveillance and monitoring system.
“Based upon those two assessments, the port recognized some significant shortcomings and we set about resolving them,” says Luther Kim, chief of the port’s police force.
Early on, port officials recognized that sheer manpower was not the answer to protecting such a large facility. They needed technology.
With the federal funding, the port was able to proceed with building a police facility, installed new lighting, and then created a fiber-optic infrastructure for a CCTV monitoring system.
“We recognized that the old way of cameras feeding directly to monitors was not cost-effective,” Kim says. “It wasn’t efficient and didn’t really work very well. We didn’t want 70 camera feeds where you would have to have people there watching individual monitors for hours on end.”
Omaha, Neb.-based Adesta was chosen to install the CCTV, which includes a mixture of Flir Sentry POD thermal cameras, Cohu color/black-and-white external pan/tilt/zoom cameras and Panasonic domes.
The next task was to find the right software to manage the monitoring of all the cameras.
With digital camera systems and intrusion detectors mounted on fencing, a continuous data feed would be traveling over the fiber-optic network back to the central control room. Each of these devices would monitor a shifting array of people, trucks, and other vehicles moving in and out of the port, as well as some nine miles of the port’s inner harbor. Detection devices would also have to distinguish the general noise created by birds and ocean waves from man-made movements that might not be permissible.
The answer was the policy-based video surveillance software provided by Atlanta-based VistaScape Security Systems. Their Security Data Management System (SDMS) enables automated threat detection through real-time analysis of surveillance video.
“If, for example, you have an area where trucks aren’t allowed, the software will be able to tell if there is a truck in that area,” says Bob Sommerfeld, president of Adesta. “Then it will switch the camera to that area, put it up on a monitor or notify the responsible people either by cell-phone or pager or alarm on the monitors. The software also creates 3D graphics.”
Running on a standard Windows-based PC using Microsoft .NET and other open standards for data and security sensor integration, the system gives security officials graphical icons that can bring up the appropriate camera with the click of a mouse.
“It makes it easier and more efficient for a limited number of people to monitor a large geographic area or significantly large numbers of cameras,” Sommerfeld explains.
“Our intentions are to make the port a much harder target, so it is less attractive to anyone who might want to disrupt the activities of the port, as well as, harm the public,” Kim says.