Closing the security ‘gap’

The ‘gap in the fence’ of port security has been the focus of a new, autonomous underwater vessel (AUV) trialled by BMT Group at the Port of Lisbon this week.

As Daniel Roythorne of BMT explained: “Landside security measures can be relatively simple to deploy, but the waterfront remains an easier target.” Vulnerabilities cover threats from both organised crime and terrorism: “While the risk is difficult to quantify, underwater attacks have been carried out in Sri Lanka with evidence that Al Qaeda has considered using this tactic.”

However, a dose of realism is an integral part of the project and costs have been kept down to the bedrock: a single, basic AUV may come in at about EUR30,000 while a whole system, with modem transmitters, deployment and a couple of AUVs thrown in should only set a port back EUR100,000. In fact much has been omitted to give a fundamentally affordable base unit: “For example, an off-the-shelf mechanical sonar has been used as it costs a fraction of a multibeam device but still gives reliable detection and identification of a diver at 100m.”

From this foundation the AUVs can be tailored to a particular operation and further options can be added to the mix: very useful as some ports may not want to limit the work done by the AUVs to security, Mr Roythorne explained many ports might want to carry out continual sampling, get a realtime and continuous update on bathymetry or even use the AUVs to check the integrity of submerged port assets.

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