Thursday, February 11, 2010

LA/LB Ports Get New Security Tools

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department unveiled several new pieces of technology Wednesday that it claims will help protect the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

The new tools, being paid for by the United States Department of Homeland Security, include a cargo-screening ship, a radiation-detecting helicopter module and a chemical/biological agent-sniffing dog.

The $3 million ship, thought to be the first of its kind, is outfitted with special sensors to inspect cargo through the hulls of cargo vessels being escorted into the harbor. Also equipped with sonar and an underwater robot to search the hulls of incoming vessels below the water line, the new Sheriff vessel is staffed with explosives experts and can transmit sensor data in real time to shore-based enforcement agents.

The new $220,000 helicopter module fits on existing Sheriff helicopters and can detect radiation material aboard cargo vessels before they enter the harbor.

The new tools will not replace the more advanced inspection techniques that already exist on-dock, such as radiation portal monitors at terminal gates.

The Sheriff is just one of the agencies responsible for homeland security in the port area. Others include the police forces of both ports, police forces from both port cities, the US Coast Guard, and the US Customs and Border Protection.