Jefferson County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Dubois shows Milestone Mobile in action on a tablet. As the fourth largest port in the U.S., Port Arthur in Texas’ Jefferson County is the number-one crude oil destination for foreign tankers, as well as the number-one commercial and military out-load port. Hundreds of vessels are processed through the channel each day, making their way from other domestic ports and from all over the globe into the Gulf of Mexico and up the Sabine-Neches Waterway.
With oil refineries and other critical infrastructure lining the 55 miles of river bank through Jefferson County, the sheriff’s department required a sophisticated security surveillance system to monitor waterway traffic and incidents. Deputies needed to ensure the safety of those working and traveling through the port, and to keep commercial and military traffic flowing.
A vast waterway traffic-monitoring network has been deployed at Sabine-Neches to ensure all vessels can safely navigate the waters. The new surveillance system also monitors the many petroleum refineries that line the channel. Backed by a Verizon Wireless 4G connection, the county cameras alongside the waterway are networked through the use of Milestone XProtect Enterprise surveillance software.
“Milestone’s open platform IP software integrates with all of the cameras seamlessly” said Mark Nolan of Knight Security Systems, the designer and integrator of the Sabine-Neches Waterway monitoring and surveillance project. “Milestone XProtect provides the sheriff’s department with more high-definition screen images and significantly better views of the waterway than the previous system. Now our system’s design provides live video and pushes to tablets, smartphones, dispatchers and personnel on watercraft, who are given access to the video.”
Monitoring 55 miles of waterway with traffic, including vessels ranging in size from small tugboats to huge tanker ships hauling hundreds of tons of oil and other commodities, is a significant challenge. When an incident is called into port security, authorities must assess the situation and respond immediately. Reported incidents are checked on video to determine if the port must close or can continue operating.
Closing the port for any amount of time is an expensive procedure, so having virtual eyes on the scene is imperative to operations. The previously installed system was only viewable and navigable in a control station building.
A ship in the Sabine-Neches Waterway, under the watchful eyes of several cameras.
Knight Security Systems designed and installed a Milestone XProtect Enterprise IP video surveillance solution with Axis Q1604 and Sony SNC-ER550 cameras and more than 8 TB of storage to provide continuous monitoring. With the Milestone Mobile client, the sheriff’s department and port authorities have instant access to video at a moment’s notice, from anywhere. A high-speed Verizon Wireless 4G network for redundant operation connects the far-flung system.
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.
The only way to access Jefferson County through the waterway is via Sabine Pass, Texas, or through two entry points on the Intracoastal Waterway. With an advanced communications system and screening process, no vessel goes unnoticed and the cameras act as verification to confirm radio transmissions.
“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,” said Michael Measells, director of Vessel Traffic Service (VTS), the organization charged with monitoring the waterway. “The cameras can do what radar can’t achieve. We can 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 number-one mission.”
ON THE ROOF
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.
“Our cameras feed the entire system and with the added support of the 4G LTE, the chances that we’ll be blacked out are very low. Nearly all aspects of the system have a redundant counterpart,” Measells said. “We’ve been up and running as a group for eight years and, other than hurricanes, we’ve never had a shutdown due to the system.”
The system also includes a rapidly deployable camera system that can be connected to a generator and a camera on a portable frame to easily access the waterway. It can be deployed and launched live within minutes of a reported incident into the Milestone system via local cell towers.