April 17, 2008

Port Security and Enterprise Architecture

[This Blog is based entirely on public information and represents my views alone and not those of the U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, or other Federal agency.]

Maritime and port security is critical to this nation, particularly after the events we witnessed on 9-11.

The largest border for the United States is our coastline at 95,000 miles. Moreover, there are approximately 361 major ports (according to the Council on Foreign Relations). Securing the maritime border is the purview of the United States Coat Guard (USCG), for which I have the privilege to work, and securing the ports is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Department of Justice, and state and local law enforcement.

National Defense Magazine, April 2008, reports that “under project SeaHawk [a pilot project], port security officials during the past three years have developed the software, sensors, and communications infrastructure needed to maintain a 24/7 watch on this regional port [Charleston, S.C.]—the sixth largest in the United States.”

From an enterprise architecture perspective, the keys to the success of SeaHawk are business process integration, information sharing and collaboration.

Before SeaHawk it wasn’t uncommon for the different agencies with jurisdiction in the port to duplicate their efforts, said CAPT Michael McAllistar, Coast Guard sector commander and Charleston’s captain of the port. “’My boarding teams would run into Custom’s boarding teams at the bow of a ship.’ Today, boardings are carried out in a more efficient manner that allows the different agencies to make better use of their limited resources.”

The Safe Port Act of 2006 calls “for the creation of similar operational centers at ‘high priority’ ports by October 2009.”

National Defense Magazine identifies the many components comprising the successful architecture for port security:

  • Advance Notice of Arrival— provides the captain of the port the information of ships due to arrive, their cargo, and their people 96 hours in advance.
  • Automated Identification System (AIS)—“is a beacon that transmits the ship’s identity and bearing.”
  • Radar—tracks the ship as it approaches.
  • Law Enforcement Dossier—law enforcementUSCG, CBP, and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—compile a dossier that identifies whether any of the crew have criminal records, “whether a ship recently changed ownership or flags, and whether it has been caught with contraband before.”
  • Risk Analysis—vessels of interest are color coded and tracked and decisions are made whether to conduct a boarding by USCG and/or CBP or “dispatch CBP canine units that specialize in either drugs or explosive detection.”
  • Cameras—“as the ship approaches the port, it is captured by long- and medium-range electro-optical and infrared cameras.”
  • Hawkeye System—“combines the data from cameras, radar, and AIS into a common operating picture [COP]. If the ship suddenly veers off course that would raise a red flag.
  • Wall of Knowledge--“like most modern operation centers, all these cameras, sensors, and tracking systems are displayed on a series of monitors spread across a wall”.
According to the article, one of the architectural challenges is standardizing the technologies and business processes for the various ports, given the challenge that “each port is different” in terms of geography and law enforcement risks (for example, some ports, like Charleston, emphasize port security while others, like in Florida, have a higher risk factors for drugs and illegal immigration). SeaHawk has been successful in this standardization with an 85% solution—“the information software portal has already been adopted by the Coast Guard’s captains of the ports.”

In the future, we can all look forward to seeing SeaHawk rolled out to other major ports, enhancing the security of our nation.


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