Sea ports and harbours in South Africa, and globally, are key points of ingress and exit for people and, more specifically, goods. They also represent a key source of revenue for the country, with a sizable contribution made to state coffers from customs and excise duties.
At the same time, lawful entrance and exit of goods and people is vital to national security. As security systems advance, they are providing new sophisticated functionality that is adding significant value to the typically manpower-heavy security systems in this sector:
Ports and harbours are busy. They are a hub for transport of people and goods, domestic and international, and must accommodate working and leisure vessels, port management services, as well as defence and environmental entities and personnel. Goods are landed and loaded, moved to temporary storage or onto road transport; crew mingle with freight handlers, excise officers and officials. There is so much movement, in fact, that it is exceedingly hard to police and manage security in this environment. There is considerable scope for collusion, theft and subversion of security systems, especially with regard to the levying and collection of taxes and duties.
While you would expect greater use of technology given this level of potential threat, a huge reliance on manpower in this sector has developed as the result of technology previously not being robust enough nor having adequate functionality or intelligence to be of much assistance. Older technology could not detect security breaches fast enough nor facilitate a sufficiently rapid review of events (eg, footage) for security personnel to act in time to make a difference.
Today, however, integrated security systems that address various aspects of security can take much of the burden of identification and authentication of threats away from physical human resources, as well as better equip security personnel to enforce security measures.
Old challenges, new opportunities
While most local ports and harbour facilities have CCTV cameras in key areas, visibility across specific areas is constantly changing as goods are moved on and off pallets, obstructing camera views. In addition, these cameras feed footage to control rooms which are often insufficiently and inexpertly staffed. Then there is the harsh environment to deal with, with the salt and moisture laden air creating a build-up of an obscuring film on the lenses of the cameras and interfering with pan, tilt and zoom (PTZ) functionality. Newer technology is helping to overcome these limitations.
Access control, perimeter intrusion and detection are other key areas at ports and harbours where integrated security solutions can add value. But the most important benefit of security is today not just detection but the intelligent routing of information and the configuration of systems to work together to deliver a rapid and effective response to threats and intrusion.
Seamless integrated intelligent response
The capabilities of today’s technology – ie, access control and CCTV systems, advanced network infrastructure, analytics and intelligent control and management software - to integrate, enables creation of a seamless platform that can be customised around a specific area of operation. These systems not only assist to eliminate error and waste, but identify and detect activities aimed at bypassing security. For example, in certain instances where checks and balances raise alerts, data will be directed to specific rather than general authorities.
In future, as security at our ports and harbours is renewed and ramped up, security systems will be integrated to human resource and health and safety systems as they are in other sectors, ensuring, for example, that staff undertake specific health exams and refresh their knowledge in terms of working in high risk environments.
The bottom line: to be effective, a strong and integrated security platform must be developed. It can no longer be seen as a separate or isolated function, it must be an integral part of operations.
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