Canada/U.S. Port Security

Jul 15, 2011

Similar to most threats to our public safety and national security, port security involves fundamental principles for staying safe from either natural disruptions or actions by criminals and terrorists. Response, Recovery and Resilience are well known common principles upon which to structure the security of ports, build programs and develop systems to suit the ­specific environment. The United States and Canada share a continental concern with port security – which calls for harmonization of approaches (policy), surveillance and detection systems, and standard operating procedures for agencies and frontline personnel on both sides of the border.

Key surveillance and other remote ­sensing systems must interconnect with the various government agencies that deal with ports. Hence cooperation is vital – all silos that hinder it must be discredited and those that encourage it must be supported. For instance, the training and education of front line personnel must include how to interact with all other agencies “in the loop.”

North America presents a continental dimension within which cooperation must flourish if we are to establish truly successful perimeter security. The multi jurisdictional coordination required poses significant challenges to all authorities, yet international rules exist to guide necessary procedures. These come from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), in the form of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS).

Each port is certified by its respective federal authority – the Department of Homeland Security or Transport Canada. As the U.S. and Canadian economies are closely linked, it behooves economic interests on both sides of the border to ensure shipping ports comply with ISPS requirements. Regular inspections determine if the port authorities are conducting appropriate training, maintaining and conducting peri­meter surveillance (cameras and fencing), and assessing security guard performance. The port facility security officer and ship security officers all need to comply with ISPS Marsat levels 1, 2, and 3 which determine security threat levels. All elements must be in place in order for the port to conduct international business.

The ISPS sets a standard of security that means, for example, that an ISPS Certificate-bearing facility security officer can manage any port anywhere within the ­network of ISPS-certified ports.

With the ISPS structure in place, there is still a need for a large dose of common sense in protecting our ports. Even with the best of protection systems in play, it is still necessary to understand, for example, human motivation and the lure of proceeds of crime. Suspicious activity must be reported to police or harbor authorities.

One of the best mechanisms we have to combat threats is the proper dissemination and use of intelligence.

Intelligence, the gathering and analysis of information, patterns and human factors, allows enforcement organizations to make informed judgments on how to proceed. If the intelligence is solid, security personnel and systems can keep a port – or any facility for that matter – safe from criminal or terrorist behaviour. If the intelligence is absent or, worse, poorly disseminated or ignored, it is at our peril.

If acted upon appropriately, intelligence provides the means of ensuring safety and security at the ports as well as along shipping routes between ports. Timely intelligence sharing and use can provide the basis for proper Response, Recovery and Resiliency at any and all ports around the continent or around the world.

Ed Myers, Editor
© FrontLine Security 2011