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Enhancing Port Security

With the threat of international terrorism still looming large, port security remains of paramount importance to Europe, not only due to the direct threats to life and property, but potential economic damage can arise.

14 April 2015

Coastal Infrastructure Defence and Security

Enhancing Port Security

With the introduction of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code in 2004, it is evident that much work has been done to tackle security issues, however, many would argue that there is still too much disparity between member states. As such, funding of approximately 14 million Euros has been secured in a European Commission (EC)-sponsored project called Security UPgrade for PORTs (SUPPORT), the aim of which is to help improve port security in major and minor European ports, as well as increase trade flow through these vital channels.

Jenny Gyngell, Project Manager of SUPPORT at BMT Group Ltd which is taking the lead as project co-ordinator and Dr Nikolaos Papas, Managing Consultant at BMT Hi-Q Sigma provide an insight into this four year R&D programme, highlighting the latest developments. They further explain why this project could play a pivotal role in helping ports to operate more efficiently, whilst becoming more resilient to crime and terror threats, without the additional burden of significant security investments. 

About 90% of EU's external trade and 40% of internal trade is transported by sea. This corresponds to 3.5 billion tonnes of freight loaded and unloaded in EU ports each year. While individual port security breaches may cause much damage in themselves, the disruption that such security incidents cause to the supply chains can also become very costly. Thus, port security remains of paramount importance. However, as a concept it is treated very differently, depending on the EU member state in question. In some countries, port security is provided by a combination of military and police forces. In others, it is a commercial arrangement where private enterprises hire private security companies. Herewith lies the problem - there is no European-wide appreciation and handling of port security matters.

Although the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), FRONTEX and EUROPOL all touch upon port security, the biggest drawback is that they have no executive powers and therefore cannot control national operations. Furthermore, it would seem that the introduction of the ISPS Code, despite costing billions of dollars around the world, is perceived by many in the industry as something which has provided little benefit. The main issue is the fact that the legislation does not mandate specific security measures and provide the necessary consultation of how to implement them. There is no specification for basic requirements such as fence quality or the frequency of security patrols. Consequently, this lack of detail has led to a situation whereby there are vast differences within the EU in how the ISPS Code has been implemented. Whilst some ports have interpreted the ISPS Code requirements for protected facilities in such a way that they require the use of code cards, fences, CCTV and alert systems, other ports believe that a simple yellow line around the terminal boundary is sufficient enough in order to comply. Clearly this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs.

Add to this the fact that the majority of ports see security as a low-priority issue and the challenges are exacerbated. Many ports believe that the chance of a terror threat to their facility is low or in some cases, non-existent and that matters relating to terrorism are already being dealt with by the police and the military. Therefore, there is often reluctance by terminal operators to invest money in security measures that do not directly protect their income. 

It is within this challenging domain that the SUPPORT research project aims to bring about positive change to enhance port security within the EU, without the need for extra investment. The project is being led by BMT Group Ltd, the leading international maritime design, engineering and risk management consultancy, with a consortium consisting of 19 other experienced companies, including transport service providers (Securitas, Port of Piraeus, Europhar, Stena, Marac Electronics), port associations (EcoSLC), port administrations (Maritime Administration of Latvia) and transport research consultancies (FOI, VTT, Marintek, Marlo, NECL, INLECOM, eBOS, University of Innsbruck and INRIA). 

As a company founded on the core principle of innovation, pioneering research and development is key to BMT's success and a large scale programme such as SUPPORT is one of many R&D projects where we are taking the lead. With so many partners involved, robust communication is paramount to ensuring the project stays on track and effectively addresses all of the issues surrounding port security in Europe.

The first part of the project, described as the analysis phase, was recently completed and saw the consortium study existing legislation, identifying draw-backs, gaps and ambiguities. One of the important outputs from this work was the introduction of a reference model for ports across Europe. Titled 'Port Nowhere', this model brings together around 1300 ports and 4000 ISPS facilities across Europe in order to better understand how they operate, whilst identifying commonalities. 

Other outputs included:

  • In depth risk analysis - to understand the various different threats to ports including terrorism and crime threats such as smuggling and petty theft which can also have a major impact on ports
  • Regulation study - various regulations exist in different countries and it was important to highlight where these may be disjointed and the wording conflicts, causing potential challenges in the implementation process
  • Technology assessment - an analysis of various current and future security technologies in terms of what they do, how effective they are and the investment required to implement them. This in turn, will enable ports to better understand what these technologies can or can't do and whether they are indeed the optimum solution. 

As part of the BMT group of companies, BMT Hi-Q Sigma's expertise in requirements and risk analysis has become a specialist resource for the project within the initial phase. Experts within the organisation have played a key role in employing a methodological approach which combines creative and analytical methods. This approach has proved to be particularly successful in identifying risk, threats and security gaps that may not have been immediately evident, even to experienced practitioners. 

By collaboratively working with the other consortium partners including BMT Group's R&D division, a number of generic port security models will now be identified as part of the next phase of the project. These models will be sufficiently adaptable to suit different configurations of ports depending on their specific sizes, terminal types and ownership models. As the project progresses new software security upgrade solutions will be developed including new sensors, communications infrastructure, container management guidelines and the R&D team at BMT Group will be developing deception recognition software which will help address the problems with recognising vessels which are trying to deceive port tracking systems. 

Given the feedback received to date, it is clear to see that much of the analysis carried out made ports more aware that investment in security measures is not money down the drain, but rather an investment in business continuity. The project has received strong interest in its ongoing analysis in order to tie down the investment cost of particular security measures, versus its impact on the flow of goods through a specific port, versus its effectiveness against different threat scenarios, be it crime based or terrorism. This would indicate that past investments in security measures have not been able to demonstrate real-cost benefit which is a key part in ensuring everyone within the supply chain embraces the optimum solution for effective port security.   

The solutions which the consortium will now look to develop based on its findings will not impede, but accelerate the flow of goods through ports. Furthermore, they will be scalable in order to be affordable for the smallest single-quay ports to the largest megaports. These tools will be designed in such a way that the latest advances in technology and legislation are accounted for, whilst providing explanatory material so that end users can better understand how, where and when to deploy each solution.  

By developing 'total' port security upgrade solutions which encompass legal, organisational, technological, training and human factors, SUPPORT can facilitate a more secure and efficient operation of European ports, without stakeholders having to further invest in expensive security systems. 

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