With terrorist attacks in recent years recognizable by city name — Brussels, Glasgow, Moscow, Paris, and of course, the shooting on October 22, 2014, through the halls of Canada’s parliament in Ottawa — there has been a movement in the port market towards unification of systems and streamlined security processes to achieve a higher level of situational awareness. The idea of situational awareness differs for each port facility and can include a number of things such as access control integrated with video or dual authentication of security incidents, as well as communication and shared data with government, local law enforcement and other organizations. But no matter how an organization gets there, the end result is better data, streamlined operations and a more secure location.

“These last six or seven years have been an evolutional change of thinking. We are all trying to evolve and look at what we call curb-to-cabin security. The challenge is that the threats are moving further and further away from the aircraft,” says James Armstrong, vice president security, emergency management and customer transportation, Ottawa International Airport Authority. “The bubble is growing for us and there has to be a heightened focus and awareness on the entire campus and even beyond the fence line.”

Achieving that high level of security while streamlining processes and maintaining a positive experience for those coming and going differs for each unique port facility, whether it’s air, land or sea. Ottawa International Airport, for example, deals with slightly less than 5 million passengers a year, but as the nation’s capital it has the unique challenge of supporting government officials and foreign dignitaries on a regular basis. PortsToronto — the government business enterprise that operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, as well as Outer Harbour Marina and Terminals 51 and 52 for marine transportation, distribution, storage and container services — has the unique challenge of maintaining security at both land and sea locations. Montreal Gateway Terminals Partnership, which operates two container terminals at the Port of Montreal, deals with thousands of shared employees, vendors and trucking company representatives, along with direct access to trucking routes and railways. Alone, the daily volume of trucks in and out of the terminals is around 1,200 for both terminals.

“There are a number of security needs and issues at ports, including perimeter security, employee compliance, operational issues, credentials, container security and inventory,” says Shawn Enides, business development manager for transportation at Genetec, Montreal, Quebec. “It’s all very granular. These applications are very end-user specific and there can be a lot of moving parts.” Enides adds that over the last few years in the port market, he has really seen a push for open, unified software platforms, allowing for shared data among equipment as well as between organizations.

Layers of Communication

Many port locations find that moving towards a unified platform that can share and streamline operations and data is best achieved piece by piece. Each layer can add a significantly enhanced view towards a total picture.

In 2007, when Montreal Gateway Terminals installed biometrics, it was a stand-alone system along with their card system, cameras and the container inventory system. “We were able to identify truck drivers coming in, but it was not linked to the company TOS (terminal operating system). It was a system that worked in silos,” recalls Frederic Provost, vice president of risk management at the organization.

In 2011, Montreal Gateway Terminals started making a transition to ramp up its container inventory system and it was the perfect timing to integrate the security systems. By the beginning of 2014, the biometry and card access system was integrated with the company TOS. Over the next year, the organization began sharing information with all the parties involved to have a stronger image of access control of its facilities, including Port of Montreal, Transport Canada, National Port enforcement team and Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA).

“We enhanced the structure by merging our security system with the Port of Montreal. The output of those efforts represents a clear advantage to our law enforcement partners. By sharing information with the partners, it is now possible to have a clear picture of who is coming into and out of our facilities,” Provost says.

“Inside the maritime industry there are so many different steps inside the supply chain. It’s very complicated and sharing information together makes it possible to do proper access control while streamlining the process. It also gives us a picture before and after people come into our terminals, so if something goes wrong, it is much easier to see where a problem is,” Provost says. For example, once a truck driver, crew member or other vendor is given an access card from the Port of Montreal, that information is shared on Gateway Terminals access control system. Terminal operators such as Montreal Gateway, link all the sponsorship and driver information with the truck companies. Biometric and card access information is also shared between port authority and the terminal operators. “There is a lot of information and it’s all electronically integrated on the same common platform,” Provost describes.

Key Relationships

This level of interoperability can take years to perfect, and as demonstrated by Montreal Gateway Terminals, relationships and communication with all outside parties are immensely important. “Relationships are a key in this business,” says Armstrong of Ottawa International Airport Authority. “Years ago, airports didn’t have these collaborative partnerships, and now it is not just one entity doing it on their own. A lot of our decision-making processes happen through collaborations with government, community and local and national law enforcement. It is so much more streamlined and everyone is on a common operating picture,” Armstrong says.

To that end, Ottawa International Airport does a number of trainings and exercises through which it cooperates with law enforcement. The airport’s active shooter training exercise, which involved a real plane with passengers, won an award from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in 2015. Furthermore, while the airport already has linked radio communications with the City of Ottawa, the city is purchasing a new radio system and the airport plans to be linked to that and increase communications even further with the upgrade, according to Armstrong. “It’s always an ongoing process, looking at what other capabilities we can bring,” he says.

Linked audio communications is something that Kelly Lake, western regional manager at Zenitel, the company that makes brand Vingtor-Stentofon, with global headquarters in Oslo, Norway, is seeing more of in the port market. “The answer to how you can communicate across all the platforms at these facilities at once in the event of a wide-scale emergency is here,” Lake says. “There are some leaders in the industry that have already done that and that will continue.” In addition to unifying internal communications, continues Lake, a big challenge in the event of an emergency or wide-scale attack is expanding communications capabilities further and allowing responding agencies and all parties involved to bridge their communications devices with each other seamlessly.

Perhaps the most important consideration to achieving unification and a higher level of situational awareness, however, is taking into account the vast differences and unique workflow of each port facility, say industry insiders.

“At the end of the day these facilities are all businesses, and it’s about security with the least amount of interruption to business. Every port could have the same capabilities or equipment, but if you don’t think through the workflow of the industrial location, then it bottlenecks everything,” says Tim Armstrong, regional sales manager at G4S Secure Integration, a global company with Canadian headquarters in Toronto. 

Drones: A Security Concern or Internal Surveillance Tool?

In April of this year, a drone hit a British Airways plane coming in to land at Heathrow Airport in London. No damage or injuries were reported; however, the incident set off a media firestorm and rekindled a fear that many in the industry have had for some time now of nefarious or careless drone use causing a catastrophe.

A U.S. study conducted by Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone analyzed Federal Aviation Administration data from August 2015 to January 2016 and found 519 incidents (in the U.S. alone) of either sightings or close encounters involving drones in the national airspace.

In Canada, Transport Canada regulations for drone usage include requiring special flight operations certificates needed for drones over a certain weight, flight operations certificates for commercial use, and restrictions of how close a drone can fly to airports and other restricted airspace. But what about those that disregard the regulations or just don’t know any better?

“It’s fair to say that the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) category is one of the fastest growing industrial sectors in the nation,” says Mark Aruja, chair of national non-for-profit Unmanned Systems Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. “One thousand companies were created over the last three years in Canada in this domain, so there is absolutely dramatic growth.”

Drone countermeasures are on the top of many of the minds of security executives at port facilities throughout the country. Not only is safety a concern, but also protection of equipment and restricted areas.

“We have not had any issues with drones to date, but they are a concern, yes,” says David Fox, director of corporate security at Irving Oil Limited of Saint John, New Brunswick, which operates Canada’s largest refinery and several marine terminals. “There is a lot of sensitive equipment and the last thing we want is a drone crashing and causing an accident.” Fox adds that the company is looking into drone detection and other countermeasures, and he describes such technology as “evolving.”

AirMarket Inc. of Edmonton, Alberta, is in development of an app that will aim to help Transport Canada, as well as airports and seaports, facilitate direct, dynamic reactions to unapproved drones over their airspace. “Airports, government agencies and other facilities that need to control their air spaces would be able to drive custom messages to drone users that get too close, or in the event of a temporary no-fly zone, for example,” explains Lindsay Mohr, CEO and founder of the company.

An Internal Tool

On the flip side of drone countermeasures is the deployment of drones for internal security — something that is in use right now in law enforcement throughout Canada, as well as in the testing phases and live phases in the seaport market for a number of applications, including aerial surveillance.

“Seaports especially are using them and testing them at this phase,” says Shawn Enides at Genetec. “Some of the bigger ports can use a drone to check out an incident in a remote area that would take a lot longer to investigate on foot.”

There are numerous applications for drones in port security, say industry experts, and companies such as Draganfly Innovations Inc. of Saskatoon, Sk. and Aeryon Labs Inc. of Waterloo, Ontario are two of many manufacturers that offer commercial-grade drones for surveillance, emergency response and other applications. For example, in 2012 Aeryon Labs’ micro-UAV was used in security preparations and response measures for the G50 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea.

“There is a lot of value-add potential for port security operations. It is about being able to get a different viewpoint and being able to respond very precisely to a situation,” Aruja says. Using different types of sensors and camera lenses can allow for spill detection, nighttime surveillance, accident reconstruction and emergency response, he adds.

“I think we have gotten to the point where the advent of the small drone, as well as the simpler, less expensive technology makes so much sense for commercial applications. Enough people in the industry have used them, are using them and have come to terms with the best applications,” notes Ben Miller, sales and business development at Draganfly Innovations. 

Cyber Threats Loom As Unified, IP Platforms Increase

One of the more recent challenges of secure facilities due to their upgraded IP platforms is online security threats. Sharing loads of information, increasing the amount of data an organization uses, and unifying all that data onto an IP platform is of tremendous benefit to airports, seaports and any organization, for that matter, but it adds a layer of complexity that didn’t exist a few decades ago.

“IP enables edge devices and sensors, but from a cybersecurity aspect that creates vulnerability,” says Kyle Heaton, business development manager for airports at Siemens, Oakville, Ontario, an integration company that has a large amount of port experience, including LAX airport in California.

Many port locations in Canada have thousands of passengers, vendors, employees and pieces of cargo going into and out of their locations on a daily basis. A disruption in service or operations from a cyberattack can have a significant impact on daily operations, data and the supply chain.

“There are two cyber threats companies need to monitor: IT or corporate network and OT or process control systems,” says David Fox, director of corporate security at Irving Oil Limited, a privately held regional energy processing and transporting company, headquartered in Saint John, New Brunswick, which has more than 900 fueling locations and operations out of eight distribution terminals. “IT’s evolving challenges include prevention of ‘denial of service’ and ransomware breaches, which are profit-driven criminal enterprises. The biggest current impediment to protecting the corporate network is convenience: the more secure, the less convenient. Attention to process control breaches are gaining greater attention with the recent cyberattack against Ukrainian critical infrastructure. The difference with OT vulnerabilities is those with the capability versus intent, but that gap is narrowing with the insider threat. OT business continuity planning must include the ability to operate manually, which is a significant challenge given our dependence on automation.”

Focusing on the Customer Experience

One of the ways that airports and seaports are streamlining security operations is through government programs and regulations, as well as using existing technology and the right employees to improve the experience for all those coming and going through the facility. “There’s a tremendous amount of pressure to enhance that client experience and it comes down to how can you make yourselves more efficient,” says Jim DeStefano, national sales manager for Siemens security products, Oakville, Ontario.

“The industry has evolved quite a bit with technology and processes, but we are always looking to be more effective and efficient: those two words are really important,” says Chantal Baril, vice president aviation services at GardaWorld, Montreal, Quebec, the largest provider of pre-screening services for the Canadian Air Transport Authority (CATSA). “What I see in the future is an effort to use technology, procedures and training to optimize the passenger experience, not just the quantitative speed of it, but also the quality of it without ever compromising security, because no one is prepared to cut short on security to transform the customer experience.”

Angus Armstrong at PortsToronto agrees that one of the answers to the complicated goal of streamlining processes, enhancing the client experience and offering a high-level of security is technology ― particularly with screening and security clearances. “We need to use technology to make us more secure, without taking up more resources and without doing double duty across borders,” says Armstrong of PortToronto, a government business enterprise that operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, along with the Outer Harbour Marina and Terminals 51 and 52 at the Port of Toronto.

He says that conducting pre-clearances at not only airports, but also railways and seaports, along with more advanced carding programs and a larger rollout of the U.S./Canada trusted traveler program called NEXUS, are a few examples of ways that ports can become more efficient in the future.