Aided by Milestone XProtect VMS, officials are able to more quickly review and respond to potential security incidents from anywhere, maintaining the security of the 55-mile Sabine-Neches Waterway while keeping important vessel traffic moving.

The Sabine-Neches Waterway runs 55 miles through Jefferson County, Texas, to the Gulf of Mexico, and includes the No. 1 commercial and military out-load port in the United States, as well as the fourth-largest port in terms of tonnage processed. Authorities who monitor the waterway need to ensure the safety of those who work and travel through the port and to keep traffic flowing for the commerce that relies on clear passage.

Milestone Systems XProtect Enterprise video management system (VMS) is at the core of new surveillance system that monitors traffic along the waterway to ensure that all vessels — civilian, military and commercial — can safely navigate the waterway with minimal interference. The vast traffic-monitoring system also monitors the many petroleum refineries that line the channel. Backed by a Verizon Wireless 4G connection, the county cameras along the waterway are networked through XProtect for managing high-definition video of live vessel movements and incident reporting from archived footage.

The system was implemented by Knight Security Systems, which chose XProtect based on the strength of it open-platform design and ability, according to Mark Nolan, sales engineer for the systems integrator.

“Milestone truly is the best IP video open platform on the market,” Nolan said. “It integrates with all of the cameras seamlessly and provides the sheriff’s department with more high-definition images for significantly better views of the waterway than their previous system. We now have camera ‘eyes’ located on an array of tall locations in challenging environments. Our solution design includes live mobile video on tablets and smartphones to dispatchers and personnel on watercraft,” he said.

Vessels range in size from small tugboats to huge tanker ships hauling hundreds of tons of oil and other commodities. When an incident is called in to port security, authorities must assess the situation and respond immediately. XProtect provides the user interface for checking video for reported incidents to determine if the port must close in order to resolve the situation or can continue operating. Closing the port for any amount of time can be very expensive, so having virtual eyes on the scene is imperative to optimal operations. 

Because the previously installed system was only viewable and navigable with one control station building, Knight Security Systems designed and installed a Milestone XProtect Enterprise IP video surveillance solution that gives the sheriff’s department and port authorities instant access to video from anywhere with the Milestone Mobile Client. 

The Milestone solution consolidates the 24-hour monitored cameras into one centrally managed solution, viewable by all administrators in their respective offices, in the main monitoring station and on mobile devices. With high-level national security implications, live camera views and the ability to quickly check recorded video is essential to the port’s operational standards for efficiency. Every second between an incident report and confirmation of the validity of the report is crucial to the response process. 

Protecting the Port

The only ways to access Jefferson County through the waterway is via Sabine Pass or two entry points on the Intracoastal Waterway. With an advanced communications system and screening process, no vessel is unaccounted for. The cameras give verification to confirm radio transmissions. The Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) at Port Arthur acts as the “keepers of the gate,” issuing advisories and minimizing blind spots with the help of the Milestone system. 

“If we pick up a radar blip that’s not transmitting an identification signal, it is imperative to identify that blip before it enters the port,” explains Michael Measells, VTS director. “The cameras can do what radar can’t achieve — put an eye on a vessel through the Milestone XProtect software, allowing us to know what’s moving, from a marine safety and security standpoint. That’s the No. 1 mission.”

Cameras line the river and port entrance, placed in strategic locations from the roofs of buildings to the top of the Verizon Wireless 4G towers. A Jefferson County Sheriff helicopter also hosts a mounted camera ready to be called into action at any time, whether it’s monitoring an incident or making rounds. 

“We’ve adapted to the ease of application, connectivity and versatility of the Milestone interface very quickly; it’s so easy to use,” said John Moore, an electronics materials officer with the U.S. Coast Guard. “Milestone is always up and running, and it loads extremely fast on any mobile operating system. The versatility of our Milestone setup also allows us to remotely provide access to our sector command center in Houston.” 

Incident Confirmation & Control

The port is a vital, active entity, responsible for millions of dollars in assets and manpower. If an incident is reported to the Sheriff’s Department or Coast Guard, there are established procedures to follow before any response. Any event, whether a boating accident, cargo spill or personal injury, has the potential to shut down the channel for an extended length of time.

“This is a high-traffic waterway and with a limited width, there are bound to be close calls and incidents,” Measells said. “It’s good to have more eyes on each vessel.”

When an incident is reported, officials must confirm the report immediately. Then the proper authorities are contacted, and ground or water personnel are deployed as needed. The sheriff’s department jurisdiction covers the entire 55 miles of critical infrastructure. 

“If I get a report of an incident, I’ll pull Milestone Mobile up on my tablet or phone to assess the situation,” said Deputy Chief Mark Dubois of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. “XProtect helps us respond quickly, allowing us to view video from any cameras immediately, from any location, any time, to confirm or deny an event.”

Moore added, “We can move from evaluation of a report to initiating a response in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. There’s time and money there. Once we confirm, all responders’ mindsets are immediately shifted into response.”