Choosing the right security solutions for seaports | Oncam

Seaports have many critical surveillance needs such as safeguarding against unlawful entry and terrorist threats, but they must also deal with day-to-day theft and damage issues. All this becomes increasingly difficult to deal with due to the large physical area that encompasses a port’s security responsibility and the fact that ports typically never close, having activity at all hours of the day and night.

As a result, ports also encounter issues deciding how to effectively and economically protect a very large area. Something else to consider is that trade activity increases every year, resulting in more traffic and more assets the port must monitor and protect.

When it comes to deploying a video surveillance solution, major challenges at a seaport include the environment being very corrosive (salt water), harsh weather (fog and humidity) and the expansive layout. One way to combat such conditions is by taking advantage of surveillance cameras certified to operate despite constant sunlight, steady rainfall or high winds.

Facility lighting and an ever-changing landscape of moving containers stacked to differing heights also pose a challenge for seaport security. “Stacking containers provide a real challenge for video coverage and ability to effectively illuminate areas and corridors between the stacks,” said Mark Brown, Director of Research and Development for Security at FLIR Systems.

Another challenge is that ports are always full of activity. “Although there are restricted areas that can be monitored using traditional surveillance technology, a port must also monitor and police areas that are open to the public and experience high volumes of foot and vehicle traffic,” said Eric Olson, VP of Marketing for PureTech Systems. “Ports must be able to quickly obtain usable surveillance data in the case of an event, and use advanced technologies to help them prevent these events from occurring.”

Improvements in camera technology

Improvements in panoramic and thermal camera technologies are allowing seaports to see beyond what traditional video surveillance cameras have been able to offer.

“Current technology gaps that still need to be addressed to help ports in their security efforts include the ability to monitor very large areas economically in both day and night conditions. For example, thermal cameras work very well for night time detection at a distance, but they do not allow for detailed identification. While video surveillance cameras do a good job at this, they require a large amount of illumination to do so during night time surveillance. Radars scan over large areas, but do not provide a visual confirmation,” Olson explained. “The key is combining these solutions in an economically and intelligent manner to provide ports with this wide range of coverage — day and night.”


Jumbi Edulbehram, Regional President of Americas at  Oncam, explained how the development of panoramic surveillance technology has allowed seaport security officials to mitigate the issue of comprehensive coverage by providing the ability to obtain a complete view of the scene with no blind spots. “Investing in panoramic 360-degree cameras in seaports and incorporating them as part of an overall video surveillance plan can help ensure total situational awareness,” he said. Developments in thermal imaging with increased resolution have allowed thermal cameras to be utilized for analytics that are more reliable and not affected by challenging lighting conditions, according to Brown. “Multi-sensor cameras with visible and thermal cameras in the same housing allow for the analytics to run on the thermal payload and the visible to be utilized for identification of the intruder.”


In terms of radar, Brown noted that in combination with video surveillance for target identification, radar technologies are very effective for detection. In addition, it can be used to automatically slew cameras to detected radar targets and provide a very effective solution for covering large open areas on the waterside or land perimeters.


Choosing the right vendor for seaport needs

Choosing the right vendor can be just as important as choosing the right equipment. The following are things to consider when choosing a vendor for seaport needs.

One thing to consider is the ability to propose solutions that provide a high level of security required for critical facilities, said  Brown. Not only that, but the vendor should also be able to aid in operations allowing the port to operate efficiently and effectively. “This implies an understanding of operations and an integration capability with additional systems,” he added.

Integration is absolutely a key priority for seaport security operators, according to Edulbehram, as these installations often require numerous cameras and additional security equipment to ensure a comprehensively safe facility.

“Integration is also a factor when it comes to leveraging existing infrastructure; many seaports may already possess security technology and are looking to augment their system by incorporating the newest solutions. In order for these integrations to work smoothly, seaport security operators are looking for vendors that implement an open-platform design, enabling seamless collaboration between technologies and systems,” Edulbehram explained.

Olson pointed out that the unique environment of a traditional port — large physical areas with high activity — also makes it very important that they chose a solution provider, not just a product supplier. “No one sensor can provide a port the most effective means of surveillance, and as technology advances, ports need to have their solution provider be agile in reacting to their needs.”