|The GLPC-C4 Port-Wide Maritime Awareness System (PWMDAS) employs cutting edge technologies to monitor Port Fourchon activities in real-time to protect port businesses and assets.
When your docks play a key role in delivering more than 18% of the nation’s energy requirements, maintaining the utmost security and keeping track of increasingly congested waterways are paramount. These are contemporary truths, certainly not lost on the folks operating Port Fourchon.
Over the past few years, the Greater Lafourche Port Commission (GLPC) has sequentially refined its advanced, GLPC-C4, Maritime Domain Awareness System, which combines, in a single platform, all security, emergency response and regular operations within Port Fourchon and surrounding areas. Patterned after systems employed by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the C4 system uses cutting-edge information technologies (IT) to monitor port activities daily, said Port Fourchon IT Director April Danos. According to the GLPC, the single-source structure, which is built around the TACCS (Touch-Assisted Command and Control System) commercial software, allows for remote access, and enhances situational awareness and interoperability between local, state and federal agencies.
The state-of-the-art C4 network gained national attention last October, when the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) named Port Fourchon the 2013 winner of its prestigious AAPA Information Technology Award for Port Operations and Management Systems. In presenting the award, the AAPA said the GLPC-C4 project “was chosen from entries across the Americas for its creativity, cost-effectiveness, and transferability of technology to the port industry.”
Danos, who directed the construction and oversees the system’s continual upgrading, said that since the award, various federal agencies have streamed into Port Fourchon to examine it, up close, including, most recently, a late-March visit by the DHS Emergency Affairs group. The C4 (command, control, communication and collaboration) system is also referred to as the Port-Wide Maritime Awareness System (PWMDAS).
The GLPC-C4 system is a “visual, geospatially-based application that aggregates data dynamically to build real-time situational awareness. The system can be deployed on a video wall for EOC (emergency operations center) support, with three screen monitors set up for analyst stations, and mobile devices available for field personnel. The system is a client-server application that allows various workstations to collaborate and share real time data, while role-based access controls ensure sensitive data can be accessed, but shared on an as-needed basis.”
The original version of the system was installed in 2010 and has been “growing steadily ever since,” Danos said. Both the GLPC and federal port security grants provided funding for the nearly-$612,000, continually upgraded network.
Along with direct monitoring of Port Fourchon operations, the GLPC-C4 system also is tied into the Harbor Police, Fire Central, Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office, Lafourche Parish Office of Emergency Management, and the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), which offloads much of the imported oil flowing into the country. The Coast Guard captain of the Port of Morgan City is working with Port Fourchon to connect to the PWMDA system. The nearby Port of Morgan City is instituting a similar system, which Danos said will allow direct collaboration and response between the two ports. One of the next steps in the evolving GLPC-C4 network, she added, is incorporating direct tie-ins, to allow interactive data sharing with the DoD and other federal agencies.
The GLPC-C4 users, she said, can command from a central location and control information, assets, response and operations during any situation. The remote access capability facilitates communications by allowing other agencies to access the system in real time during emergency response events, participating from multiple locations via computers or mobile devices.
“It’s like having everyone working at the same computer at the same time,” said Port Director Chett Chiasson, “but they don’t have to be in the same room, or even in the same state. Each person can contribute unique information to the system, and everyone can immediately see that information and use it to tailor a response to each situation as it develops. It makes all of the users more aware of what’s going on around them, and ultimately that makes our port more secure.”
The port’s IT director said the C4 system is a step above typical physical security and information management systems, which communicate through web interfaces. Due to cyber-security issues, the Port Fourchon system is not on the web, with communication possible only between secure networks, she said.
“The PWMDAS allows us to track and locate vessels using the Port Vision AIS system,” Danos said. “We have Blue Force tracking capabilities to track our security vessels, and Doppler radar to capture smaller vessels in the Port, such as commercial fishing vessels. We also use CCTV and Video Analytics to capture alerts of unusual activity. Our local law enforcement agency for Lafourche Parish, and our Port Fourchon Harbor Police, also share a Law Enforcement Data Sharing system throughout the parish and local police departments.”
Moreover, while maintaining security is at the heart of the PWMDAS, Danos said the constantly evolving system also provides daily, valuable business data for both tenants and users of the port. That capability has become more essential, given the increased activity in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, she said.
“This system is being used in our day-to-day operations for emergency management and security, of course, but also for administrative and operational purposes. From operational and administrative perspectives, it captures lease data and information on our tenants. It allows our security officers to better monitor the vessels coming into the port, or needing management assistance,” she said. “So, this system is used on a daily basis and not just for incident response.”
PORT SET TO UNVEIL NEW EOC
|The newly constructed Emergency Operations Center at Port Fourchon is set to open in May.
Technology is being installed in Port Fourchon’s newly constructed Emergency Operations Center (EOC) as a prelude to its formal opening, expected in May.
With dorm rooms for Lafourche Ambulance personnel, the new EOC will provide around-the-clock emergency response, including central fire dispatch, as well as serve as the central incident command post, should a situation arise. The building also will be used for exercises, drills and training for local, state and federal officials, as well as port tenants and other stakeholders.
In late March, Port Fourchon IT Director April Danos said technicians were putting the final touches on the EOC, including the installation of a video wall and other technologies. “This (EOC) gives us a central incident command center, where all the stakeholders can either be in one room, or at their respective facilities, and communicate easily and effectively,” she said.