Skip to comments.Virginia Port Authority's drive for security
Posted on 03/09/2006 6:08:05 AM PST by csvset
PORTSMOUTH Entering the Virginia Port Authoritys three marine cargo terminals soon will involve a technology similar to the Smart Tag toll collection system.
Officials say the new system will better secure the port. E ven with such improvements, many in the maritime industry think the nations 360 seaports remain unnecessarily vulnerable to attack because a national transportation worker identification card still has not been developed by the federal government, despite four years of efforts .
When the entry system debuts in about a month at Portsmouth Marine Terminal, truck drivers will proceed to an unmanned entry gate. There they will wave an identification card equipped with a tiny radio transmitter in front of a sensor outside their window. While the truck waits, the name of the driver and the trucking company will be compared quickly with a database of the roughly 14,000 active port IDs.
Search results will be routed to a Port Authority police officer in a control booth overlooking the gate. The officer will use a video camera to check whether the driver matches the picture of the person to whom the card was issued. Other cameras will record the identification number of the cargo container on the truck.
If everything checks out, the officer will raise a gate allowing the truck to proceed.
For exiting , drivers will have to be cleared again and cameras will ensure each is leaving with the proper container.
This is on the cutting edge of security, said Ed Merkle, director of security for the Port Authority, which owns the regions three terminals.
Presently, truckers hand their badges to a police officer for inspection. However, theres no way of quickly checking whether the cards are valid or whether the truckers have the correct loads , Merkle said.
Few, if any, other ports have a system like the
e-gates that the Port Authority is installing, he said. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California this month are unveiling a truck access system that also uses radio frequency identification tags. However, Merkle said the two systems are not the same.
The e-gates will be installed at Newport News Marine Terminal by early summer and Norfolk International Terminals by the end of the year, Merkle said. The projects estimated cost is $4.8 million, with the authority paying $2.7 million and federal grants covering the rest.
Despite such additional measures, the nations ports still are not able to check the names of maritime workers against a federal terrorist watch list, and the majority of ports including Virginias also dont have the authority to conduct criminal background checks. Those two missing pieces leave gaps in port defense systems, maritime security experts have said.
The Transportation Worker Identification Credential , authorized by Congress in 2002, would address those issues. It also would include a biometric identifier such as a fingerprint to ensure that people are who they say they are.
Those cards were to be rolled out in August 2004, but the Transportation Security Administration, which is developing them, now says the introduction is planned for spring 2007. The credentials would be for all workers in the transportation industry, including those with ports, railroads and trucking companies.
The slow progress has frustrated maritime officials.
It continuously gets delayed, said Susan Monteverde, vice president of government relations for the American Association of Port Authorities. It just doesnt seem to be a priority.
Port security came to the forefront recently with the political fire storm ignited by the sale of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. of England to Dubai Ports World, a state-owned company from the United Arab Emirates. Dubai Ports World would take over the management of terminals in six U.S. ports, including Baltimore and Miami.
Responding to c ongressional concerns about the credential program, the Government Accountability Office, Congress nonpartisan research office, has launched a second audit of the program. The first, done in 2004, found problems with Transportation Security Administration management.
Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Amy Kudwa attributed delays to the projects vast scope and to a presidential directive issued last year affecting the cards. About $70 million has been spent on the program so far.
Were building this from the foundation upwards, Kudwa said. It certainly has been a priority, but there are a number of groups that need to be involved in this process and were working through that to make sure were doing this the best way possible.
In the meantime, the Port Authoritys new gate system will add another layer of security. It will enable the port police to spend more time focusing on anomalies at the gate and less time doing routine truck clearances, Merkle said. Trucks enter and exit the gates at the authoritys three terminals about 21,000 times every week.
It gets the noise out of the way so the officer is really focused on unusual occurrences, Merkle said, which is what you want the officer to focus on.
The system may add an extra 10 to 12 seconds to the time it takes to be cleared for entry, but overall, truckers should spend less time at the gate because more lanes are being added, he said.
Before it takes effect, the Port Authority is combing through its list of truck drivers and issuing new identification cards to those who should have them.
Its not bad, said Charles Chick Rosemond, a vice president with trucking company Wyatt Transfer Inc., of the new system. The truckers will just work with the port.
Reach Gregory Richards at (757) 446-2599 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hell, not too many folks in government are concerned about securing our nation's borders.
Any Tom , Dick, or Harry can waltz across the southern border. While this effort is a start, our border security should be the priority.
So much depends on the inflation rate, and that is why steps were taken during the Clinton administration to change the way the CPI is calculated, to keep it down. Keeping down the real and perceived inflation rate keeps down the increases in government payments and also keeps down the cost of borrowing money for governments and private businesses alike. It allows us to have 1 dollar cardiac arrest double cheeseburgers, and allows some immigrants (legal and otherwise) to charge 70 dollars for a house cleaning and pay the other cleaner 20 dollars per house, and both are happy with the deal. The cost to the homeowner is lower than the 120 dollars (or some similar high sum) it would be if the borders were controlled effectively.
At some point, the high price would mean less business, but there would be fewer sales of services at the higher price and many homeowners would do without cleaning services. This would mean less tax revenues to teh government, because, contrary to popular perception, taxes are very often paid on transactions involving illegals. Many illegal aliens have fake SS numbers and the government loves getting the payments for accounts that have a decent chance of never being collected from. Sure, there will be a movement to allow illegals to correct their paperwork and collect social security based on contributions to their fake accounts, but that is for bureaucrats to deal with 15 to 20 years down the road, when the current bureaucrats will have retired.
The abundant supply of illegals in our midst keeps down pay for menial labor and semiskilled labor. This is considered a good thing by many important decision-makers, I guess.
Of course, the cost of providing free public schools and health care for countless illegals is never adequately factored into the cost-benefit analysis.
So it makes no difference who runs the ports? The politicians will do nothing to strengthen our port security once they stop the Dubai port deal, but hey, they got anti-Bush brownie points with, um, whoever, and they might get re-elected. Yippee.