Port of Houston Provides a Public-Private Security Partnership Model

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Bill Crews.jpgA series of successful partnerships between the Port of Houston Authority, the Texas state government, and local private industries have captured the attention of the Department of Homeland Security which sees them as a potential model to strengthen port security initiatives around the country.

According to Bill Crews, pictured, port security & emergency operations manager for the Port of Houston Authority, the federal government has taken an interest in several of the port's partnership  initiatives, including the state's creation of the Houston Ship Channel Security District, with an eye toward adapting them in other locations, Crews made his remarks Wednesday at the monthly meeting of ASIS's Houston Chapter.

The security district was set up through state legislation and is designed akin to a municipal utility district, The district, which has taxing authority, raises funds for the maintenance and repair of security infrastructure, including video surveillance, access control and command and control systems, at the port. While the DHS port security grant program provides funds for the purchase of security technology, those funds do not cover upkeep. The security district, which has seven board members from private sector companies based in the port area, plus representatives from the port authority and the city governments in the port vicinity, fills that gap, Crews said.


From a technology perspective, the ultimate goal is to tie together physical security systems under an extensive command-and-control system, and, in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, create a maritime fusion center that would collect information and direct operations in the event of an emergency. The initial emphasis will be on video, namely to leverage all the surveillance assets on the public and private sides of the port, Crews said. The surveillance network will be supported by ring of fiber optic and wireless links, he added.. 

Still, large-scale command-and-control is in the "infancy stage," Crews said. "A lot of things have to be worked out on the information sharing side. When mixing public and private systems there are a lot of protocols that need to be addressed."

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PortofHouston.jpg
Port of Houston Facts


  • No. 1 in U.S. in foreign waterborne tonnage
  • No. 2 in U.S. in total tonnage (220 million tons in 2009)
  • No. 2 in export tonnage
  • No. 10 in the world in total tonnage
  • 25-mile complex; 53 miles on ship channel waterway
  • 7,700 vessel calls in 2009
  • 7 facilities responsible for land-side security
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Crews, who in the past has worked closely with the Port of Long Beach, Calif., and the Port of New York and New Jersey, said there are a number of unique characteristics of the Port of Houston. First, unlike New York or Long Beach, which have direct but limited access to the ocean, the Houston Ship Channel meanders some 53 miles from Galveston Bay, affording virtually unlimited access for small crafts that can reach the port through countless small rivers and bayous in the area. Second is the high concentration of petroleum and chemical plants and refineries situated in a heavily populated area,  

The port itself is using a physical security information management (PSIM) system from NICE Systems (formerly Orsus), but that system, which brings together the diverse video, access and alarm monitoring systems, may plug into another PSIM or command-and-control system when all is said and done, Crews told Security Squared following his presentation.

The maritime fusion center is one of several regional initiatives underway to further tighten security at the port, Crews said. Much of the current work is to shore up emergency management beyond hurricane response.Transportation Worker Identity Cards (TWIC) are currently in use. The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection also has portable radiological detection devices and portable X-ray equipment for cargo container inspection. All together, the port has received $38.6 million in DHS grants since 2002. It also has applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for $18 million in additional funds, Crews said.

Throughout his talk, however, Crews kept returning to the importance of partnerships, which he believes are critical to gaining coordinating an effective and successful response to an situation or emergency. He especially noted the way federal, state, city, county and private sector agencies in Houston work together. "When people in Houston say they are going to help you, they are going to help you--and give you the shirt off their backs," he said.

Bill Crews.jpgA series of successful partnerships between the Port of Houston Authority, the Texas state government, and local private industries have captured the attention of the Department of Homeland Security which sees them as a potential model to strengthen port security initiatives around the country.

According to Bill Crews, pictured, port security & emergency operations manager for the Port of Houston Authority, the federal government has taken an interest in several of the port's partnership  initiatives, including the state's creation of the Houston Ship Channel Security District, with an eye toward adapting them in other locations, Crews made his remarks Wednesday at the monthly meeting of ASIS's Houston Chapter.

The security district was set up through state legislation and is designed akin to a municipal utility district, The district, which has taxing authority, raises funds for the maintenance and repair of security infrastructure, including video surveillance, access control and command and control systems, at the port. While the DHS port security grant program provides funds for the purchase of security technology, those funds do not cover upkeep. The security district, which has seven board members from private sector companies based in the port area, plus representatives from the port authority and the city governments in the port vicinity, fills that gap, Crews said.


From a technology perspective, the ultimate goal is to tie together physical security systems under an extensive command-and-control system, and, in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, create a maritime fusion center that would collect information and direct operations in the event of an emergency. The initial emphasis will be on video, namely to leverage all the surveillance assets on the public and private sides of the port, Crews said. The surveillance network will be supported by ring of fiber optic and wireless links, he added.. 

Still, large-scale command-and-control is in the "infancy stage," Crews said. "A lot of things have to be worked out on the information sharing side. When mixing public and private systems there are a lot of protocols that need to be addressed."

___________________________________________________________________________

PortofHouston.jpg
Port of Houston Facts


  • No. 1 in U.S. in foreign waterborne tonnage
  • No. 2 in U.S. in total tonnage (220 million tons in 2009)
  • No. 2 in export tonnage
  • No. 10 in the world in total tonnage
  • 25-mile complex; 53 miles on ship channel waterway
  • 7,700 vessel calls in 2009
  • 7 facilities responsible for land-side security
____________________________________________________________________________

Crews, who in the past has worked closely with the Port of Long Beach, Calif., and the Port of New York and New Jersey, said there are a number of unique characteristics of the Port of Houston. First, unlike New York or Long Beach, which have direct but limited access to the ocean, the Houston Ship Channel meanders some 53 miles from Galveston Bay, affording virtually unlimited access for small crafts that can reach the port through countless small rivers and bayous in the area. Second is the high concentration of petroleum and chemical plants and refineries situated in a heavily populated area,  

The port itself is using a physical security information management (PSIM) system from NICE Systems (formerly Orsus), but that system, which brings together the diverse video, access and alarm monitoring systems, may plug into another PSIM or command-and-control system when all is said and done, Crews told Security Squared following his presentation.

The maritime fusion center is one of several regional initiatives underway to further tighten security at the port, Crews said. Much of the current work is to shore up emergency management beyond hurricane response.Transportation Worker Identity Cards (TWIC) are currently in use. The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection also has portable radiological detection devices and portable X-ray equipment for cargo container inspection. All together, the port has received $38.6 million in DHS grants since 2002. It also has applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for $18 million in additional funds, Crews said.

Throughout his talk, however, Crews kept returning to the importance of partnerships, which he believes are critical to gaining coordinating an effective and successful response to an situation or emergency. He especially noted the way federal, state, city, county and private sector agencies in Houston work together. "When people in Houston say they are going to help you, they are going to help you--and give you the shirt off their backs," he said.

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