Real-time mapping technology used at a United States’ super-port could help Australia’s national security agencies crack down on crime in the nation’s major docks – according to a leading international specialist.
Terry Bills – transportation expert with global Geographic Information System (GIS) giant Esri – visited Australia to reveal how the technology has already transformed the security framework of the second busiest container port in the US, the Port of Long Beach.
Mr Bills said the same approach could enable Australian port authorities to crack down on drug trafficking and other crime by tracking suspicious behaviour, such as irregular vessel berths.
“Ports are highly dynamic environments which contain a number of information sources such as CCTV footage, ground-based radar and vessel tracking systems,” Mr Bills said.
“GIS technology integrates these data feeds into a real-time, common operating picture of the entire facility.
“This means security officers can track the location and movements of personnel, equipment, shipping containers, vehicles and maritime and terrestrial traffic – all on one screen.
“The Port of Long Beach has used this technology to quickly identify unusual occurrences and movements – for example, the arrival of an unexpected ship.
“By adding further information, such as the vessel’s specifications, potential cargo and origin, officers can drill down to identify anomalies which indicate a potential threat.
“Furthermore, GIS technology can also map and identify security blackspots to enable authorities to put preventative security measures in place.”
While in the country, Mr Bills met with security agencies in partnership with his Australian counterpart David Eastman – a national security expert at Esri Australia.
Mr Eastman said GIS is key to tightening the nation’s port security operations and management.
“While GIS technology is already employed extensively in many of the world’s leading port security operations – such as Port of Los Angeles and Port of Rotterdam – its use in Australia is still relatively new,” Mr Eastman said.
“However, the technology should be an integral component of every country’s customs and border protection services.
“It enables officers to be more predictive in their approach to security, and identify suspicious activities long before it becomes an issue.
“Also, the scalability of the technology means Australian agencies can develop and share national, state and local views of its widely-spread facilities – including airports.
“This ability to see the whole picture, while also having the capability to focus on a smaller area, gives national security agencies a distinct strategic advantage.
“In terms of inter-agency coordination, customs, coast guard, maritime police, security officials and operations personnel can seamlessly integrate their data to create a complete port security picture.
“When everyone is working from the same map, port security operations become far more efficient and effective.”