Making the Right Choice for Port Security

Aug. 18, 2008
For one Port of Long Beach terminal operator, choosing the right access control system means they can meet both current and future government requirements.

Following the 9/11 tragedy, the U.S. government looked to tighten security at its most vulnerable points, including U.S. ports and shipping. The Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002 called for "Vessels and facilities that load/carry certain dangerous cargos ... to have individual security plans that address fundamental security measures such as access controls, communications, restricted areas, cargo-handling and monitoring, training, and incident reports."

As one of the largest container terminals by volume in North America, Hanjin Shipping and its operator, Total Terminals International (TTI), Long Beach, Calif., fell within that category.

Steve Ruggiero, director of maritime security for TTI, almost immediately began looking for an access control system that would not only comply with MTSA, but would serve the terminal far into the future.

"We needed to have control over who is on and off the facility and to have access lists readily available in case of emergency," Ruggiero says.

But choosing a system wasn't going to be simple. There were multiple factors to consider.

Protecting the Supply Chain
Being such a high-volume port, Ruggiero had certain concerns about implementing access control security.

"We are moving cargo that affects the world economy," Ruggiero explains. "We needed to ensure that whatever system we put in place would keep commerce moving. It's easy for us in California to have stock on the shelf.  But, when you consider someone in the Midwest trying to buy a DVD player off the shelf, if our supply is slowed down in any manner, it simply won't be there. It will still be stuck in port.

"We needed a security system that would work not only effectively, but also quickly and efficiently."

Besides traffic flow, the marine environment was also a big factor. "Being on the waterfront, naturally we have salt air and marine conditions to deal with," Ruggiero says. "We have trucks and vehicles and heavy equipment, dust, dirt, grime and grease. We really needed something robust. We can't afford to have a reader down. It affects commerce and the supply chain. Plus, if we have trucks waiting, that's pollution. There are environmental laws to consider. All these factors go into how efficient the security system must be."

TWIC Compatibility
Adding to Ruggiero's complex equation was another government initiative - the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program. The TWIC card is a photo ID/smart card with a biometric fingerprint template and other identification information stored on a processor chip within the card's tamper-resistant packaging.

The Port of Long Beach was selected as a pilot site for the TWIC program.

While the program was voluntary (only employees who wanted to participate applied for the government-issued TWIC card), Ruggiero knew that whatever system he chose to conform to the MTSA would eventually have to be compatible with TWIC as well.

The TWIC pilot covered only the entry points onto the Port of Long Beach. Within the port, however, each terminal operator has its own entry points. TTI occupies the single largest mega-terminal (Pier T, 385 acres) in the port.

"TWIC was a huge consideration factor," Ruggiero says. "We know that this card is coming for all terminal operators throughout the country. Whatever system our company purchased, I needed to make sure it was also going to work in the future."

With the TWIC program not yet finalized, and some employees participating in the pilot and some not, Ruggiero needed to find a system that could work with TWIC in its current form, as it evolved, and in its final incarnation.

Card readers at the port include Hirsch ScrambleSmart contactless TWIC readers with high security scrambling keypads. The devices feature dual-authentication technology to verify the identity of cardholders.The Right Solution

Ruggiero wanted something robust, efficient, highly secure and able to accept current and future TWIC cards.

For a solution he turned first to his own military background.

"I have been involved with the military for years. I have been overseas and in various military installations dealing with access control. The military bases use Hirsch Electronics.  There were other companies we looked at. But of all the companies, Hirsch had a lot more to offer with their system."

One of the key benefits of the Hirsch Electronics access control and security management system was the company's ability to read multiple card formats. "We were quickly able to assess what the TWIC standard was at the time and read that," says Bernice Noriz, strategic accounts manager for Hirsch.

John Piccininni, vice president of sales for Hirsch, adds: "We have a universal card reader interface.  As TWIC changes, facilities like TTI don't have to scrap their investment in Hirsch. We are able to accommodate necessary changes."

For Ruggiero, this was critical. "We are part of TWIC. We have some readers that were issued to us by the Federal Government. These were easily integrated with Hirsch, and they were able to work with us to get these other readers up and running with little or no hassle at all."

The Hirsch readers TTI incorporated include a combination of proximity-only and Hirsch's unique ScrambleProx and ScrambleSmart keypad+reader devices. All of the units are of rugged construction, a major plus in the port's harsh environment. And they meet the security requirements Ruggiero was looking for.  "In addition to reading the TWIC cards, the ScrambleSmart readers offer dual authentication and secure a person's PIN code.  They take the numbers and move them in different locations on the keypad each time.  So if someone tries to steal your code by watching your key-press pattern, they can't.  In certain locations that high-security feature was key."

The System Today and Beyond
With about 60 readers spread over four buildings on the site, TTI now has a secure access control system that does everything Ruggiero was looking for.

As the TWIC program transitions from pilot to deployment phase, the access control system will be expanded to include the external entry points onto TTI's facility, including trucking lanes and turnstiles.  TTI will also be getting new access cards with the finalized TWIC standard, and then enabling up to 5,000 additional daily users.  Potentially, 17,000 longshoremen and 35,000 truck drivers could be enrolled.

Ruggiero is confident in his choice of security systems vendor.  "I think it's a great system, and it has lots of capabilities - some I haven't even used yet," he says. "And the customer support and technical assistance is outstanding."

Ruggiero is especially pleased with the system's ability to address his future requirements, even as those standards continue to evolve.

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