Securing Nation’s Ports Post–9/11 Requires a Fundamental Change in Perimeter Security

The world changed for the Port of Houston Authority on September 11, 2001. Making one of the world’s busiest ports safe and secure requires a fundamental rethinking of security.

Los Angeles, CA. – March 2, 2010 – The concept of “security” changed in a fundamental way after 9/11 for ports around the world, and to address this challenge, the Port of Houston Authority selected Los Angeles–based B.I.G. Enterprises (www.bigbooth.com) to manufacture and deliver thirteen guard booths for all major points of entry.

The security challenges facing the leadership of America’s port authorities scarcely resemble the issues that confront managers of single buildings, skyscrapers, or even industrial parks. Most major ports are the size of small cities; they encompass a complex tangle of public and private enterprises, conflicting regulations, and varying agendas. Most challenging of all, ports are designed to make entry and exit easy and efficient, making site security especially challenging.

Houston’s issues are particularly difficult. A 25-mile complex of public and private facilities, just a few hours' sailing time from the Gulf of Mexico, the port is ranked first in the U.S. in foreign waterborne tonnage, second in total tonnage, and tenth in the world in total tonnage. In 2006 more than 200 million tons of cargo moved through the facilities. It’s also home to a $15 billion petrochemical complex – the largest in the nation and the second largest worldwide. All of it – despite its size and porosity – had to be made secure in a whole new way.

As the Port of Houston Authority examined its vulnerabilities, hardening the perimeter became a major issue. “That included things like increased fencing, closed circuit TV, card readers – a whole slew of products,” Managing Director Wade Battles recalls. Those types of infrastructure investments, more than personnel or procedural changes, made the most difference most quickly.

Within perimeter defense there was the matter of access control. “The regulations now require identity verification at the gates, and the ability to do spot inspections – to pull vehicles aside – to do that. That required us to literally rebuild our gates,” Battles said.

“We are out in the environment and dealing with high-volume traffic,” shares Russell Whitmarsh, Chief of Police, on the Port of Houston Authority’s decision to select B.I.G. Booths. “We were looking for something that would provide protection and have good quality construction, functionality and endurance. The B.I.G. booths met our criteria. We’re happy with our choice and look forward to putting them through the test in the years to come.”