Technology: Mobile Port Security Systems

By Tony Kingham, Editor, Border Security Report

Worldwide, there are around 55,000 merchant ships trading internationally and thousands of freight ports that receive cargo ships, and according to the UNCTAD, there were 939 container ports.

Indeed, the main transport mode for global trade is ocean shipping, with around 90% of traded goods transported by ship and 61% of global crude oil and petroleum products transported by sea.

Currently, there are 314 cruise ships operating worldwide, with a combined capacity of 537,000 passengers, serving around 29.7 million passengers globally each year (pre-COVID) visiting a total of 2,219 cruise ports. If you estimate an average of four international ports visited per cruise ship (this is pure guesswork, as some visit many more, and a few, visit none at all) you can estimate a figure of approximately 178.2 million border crossings by cruise passengers each year.

It is difficult to measure the scale of the global cross border ferry market but in the British Isles alone, more than 39 million passenger journeys are made by ferry to UK islands, the Isle of Man and Ireland, France, Spain, and Holland each year. The port of Dover alone manages thirteen million passengers, 2.5 million freight vehicles and £100 billion of UK/European trade.

I won’t bore you with any more statistics but, suffice to say ports are the most important entry/exit points in the global trade system as well as handling an enormous number of cross border travellers and vehicles, both commercial and pleasure.

Whilst their importance as vital border crossing points is obvious, they are also probably the most complicated and difficult to secure. This is because, not only do you have to secure the land and waterside entry and exit, but also the underwater and air environments.

But that’s for another time, for the purposes of this article we are going to concentrate on managing the human traffic.

Human traffic through ports is complex and difficult to control for whole host of reasons.

As we have seen, in the larger ports merchant shipping is coming and going all the time, with their crews making landings sometimes at quay sides but also by lighters or other boats.

Local commercial vessels such as fishing boats and water taxi’s come and go continuously according to their business requirements and the tides.

In the tourist ports, cruise ships arrive and spill out their passengers for excursions and other short stays. The average cruise ship passenger capacity is around 3,000 and some can even carry up to 6,000, and majority of these passengers typically enter and exit all at the same time. In busy cruise destinations you can have many these ships arriving at quick succession. For instance, Cozumel (Mexico) is the busiest cruise port in the world (measured in arriving cruise passengers), with 4.3 million international cruise passengers arriving at the Mexican port each year. That’s an average 82.6k passengers a week if it were spread equally across 52 weeks, which of course it is not.

Ferry traffic is a major part of a many ports business, which can produce a whole host of problems, as was seen with the huge delays in crossings this summer in the Port of Dover in the UK. There was a lot of finger-pointing in this particular case, but whatever the rights and wrongs, the problems are only likely to get worse once the EU’s Entry Exit System (EES) for third country nationals, is fully implemented by November 2023.The EES will require that third country nationals be checked on entering the Schengen area by the Member State at the point of entry or exit. Details of that individual will be checked through their National Uniform Interface (NUI) on the EES, which is run by eu-LISA, the European agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems. This system will include information from the Visa Information System (VIS), Passenger Name Record (PNR) and Advanced Passenger Information (API) and all member states (plus Europol) will have access to the system to check the travellers’ credentials and eligibility to enter.

But crucially for port authorities, operators, and agencies, it will require the traveller to be biometrically scanned using facial recognition and fingerprints, both entering and leaving the Schengen area.

And therein lies the problem. Whilst it should be relatively easy (and I only said relatively) to roll out airport style eGates in cruise ship terminals and commercial ports, because access is often already restricted so adding eGates to existing security should not be a major problem, just a major expense.

But when it comes to managing ferry ports and leisure / commercial traffic at smaller ports, there will be many issues.

For instance, at a busy ferry port how do you scan people in cars, trucks, and coaches? Do you require everyone to get out of the vehicle and report to an eGate? or do you use mobile biometric devices? or do you rely on biometric scanning technology that can scan more that one individual in a vehicle? Whatever option is taken, in a busy port like Dover, it will require major changes to existing procedures and infrastructure, and delays are inevitable.

There are other issues for fishing villages, mariners, leisure harbours and anchorages, all that have traditionally relied on trusting people to report to the local Harbour Master or customs/immigration official. Or it may need an official spotting and approaching new arrivals. But this is far from effective secure border management, because you can only trust actors to avoid the authorities.

It also relies heavily on the workforce to provide 24hr coverage in the thousands of small harbours and anchorages that dot the coastline.

For instance, French Préavis Police aux Frontières (PAF) have officially notified sailors heading for France this year to go to designated ports of entry, as it appears, there are not enough French officials to go from port to port to check boat papers and stamp passports.

In these scenarios it is likely to be a mix of technologies depending on local circumstance, traffic, and infrastructure, but the most important will be mobile systems.
So, here are a few of the mobile systems that are available on the market.

Biorugged have developed BioWolf DEZ especially for the control of situations where people are on the move, combining a rugged passport reader and fingerprint reader with a dual flash 13 MP camera, giving the local authority the choice of facial recognition software. Biorugged claim that unlike any other hardware on the market their DEZ has been developed to support the workflow of the officer, rather than simply merge all technological requirements. The device allows the officer to insert the passport without having to move it again until the end of the check. The device can be held with one hand, even when taking fingerprints. According to Arnd Langguth, CEO of Biorugged “All devices we have seen will tilt when someone presses hard on the fingerprint scanner, forcing the officer to use both hands to hold it. This goes against a fundamental principle of ‘self-protection at all times,’ the officer must have one hand free.”

DERMALOG’s Smart Verification Terminal 4500 (SVT 4500) is an exceptionally rugged, high-performance, portable and a multi-connectable handheld. It combines on-device and server-based identification, including different wireless communication standards (Bluetooth/WIFI/GPS/NFC) to enable the future of mobile biometrics. It has contact and contactless card and passport reader, fingerprint, facial recognition, and iris recognition.

IDEMIA offers its new generation of multi-application tablets. The ID Screen range offers improved ergonomics with more power, connectivity, and autonomy for all use cases enabled either for government border control or for enterprises use such as customer onboarding. They incorporate ID and passport document checks and applications for biometric fingerprint and face recognition. ID Screen offers single fingerprint capture whereas ID Screen 60 offers a large fingerprint sensor for fast and convenient ten-print capture (4-4-2). ID Screen 60 has a rugged design that allows it to be used in even the most challenging environments, and a powerful battery for full-day use.

Regula has recently launched its newest handheld devices for express document verification, the Regula 1031. The device’s body is made of shockproof plastic. Depending on the modification, Regula 1031 offers 15x, 20x, or even 24x zoom, which makes it possible to effectively examine microprinting, as well as elements applied with nanoprinting, such as holograms. Regula 1031 has an extended set of light sources and is the first compact-size model that offers examination in infrared light. The device has a built-in module for reading RFID that instantly detects, identifies, and displays the type of RFID tag embedded in passports and other documents.

Arif Mamedov, CEO of Regula Forensics, commented. “This is the first device on the market equipped with a display, 24x optical zoom, a complete set of light sources, including infrared, and other powerful features.”

Other companies have gone for a different approach and rather than making stand alone products specifically for the task, they have decided to utilize the power of the mobile phone. This approach can reduce costs by utilizing mobile phones already in an inventory. It also means that users are familiar with the interfaces and technology. The downside is that mobile phones are not routinely ruggedised and do not have the specific adaptations incorporated in units specifically designed for the job.

Jenetric have gone for a different approach by offering the Flipcase. It is essentially a mobile phone connected with a FAP 60 fingerprint scanner. Therefore, all software that runs on a smartphone can be used with Flipcase, such as face recognition, MRZ reading or Passport chip reading. It provides comfortable and secure usage for the officer (one hand use, display facing to officer only, no visible cable).

Integrated Biometrics have gone a stage further and produced Slapshot, an Android app that turns a commercial Android Smartphone into a biometric capture and matching device. Slapshot supports fingerprint and facial recognition using state of the art matching algorithms. Add a passport reader app and network software and what you have is a low cost mobile border management device.

However, a problem facing all this clever technology is that in some more remote areas, the communications infrastructure can be a major problem. Whatever type of mobile device you are using, it will need fast reliable connectivity. One outage on the system could cause extensive delays in processing travellers, which increases the security risks and may cause inconvenience and potential costs for the traveller. But here again, technology may be coming to the rescue, with the roll out of fast and reliable, low-cost satellite connectivity.

It certainly does seem that technology really does have all the answers!