Biometrics to Boost Port Security

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimated that 9.8 billion tons of goods are carried by sea in 2014, around 80 percent of the world’s trade. With that high trading volume, seaborne shipments have become the target of many sabotages and terrorism. Besides, ports are inherently very vulnerable to criminal attacks due to their big size, open location, and they are the intersection point of multiple means of transportation. In order to maximize the smooth process and effectiveness of international trade, there’re apparently high needs for security at ports.

Biometrics to Boost Port Security

Biometric access control to take its share and help to improve the global port security environment.

Among the port security market, North American region is generating the highest revenue, according to MarketsAndMarkets research firm. One of the most popular biometric initiatives undertaken by the U.S. government concerning port security is the deployment and use of the “Transportation Worker Identification Credential” (TWIC). TWICs are tamper-resistant biometric credentials containing fingerprint biometric data. During its initial rollout, TWIC was used primarily for visual identity checks. Later then, The Coast Guard uses hand-held readers during spot checks to ensure credentials are valid and identity is verified. Workers at these ports have to pre-enroll for TWIC on the TSA Web site. TSA completes a security threat assessment based on the name and identity documents presented at the time of enrollment. An applicant can also be disqualified permanently or for a period of time depending on the convictions they have. In April 2009, all USCG credentialed mariners had been required to hold a TWIC in order for their license to remain valid. As of May 2014, according to TSA records, there were nearly 3 million people enrolled in the program.

It cannot be denied that the improvement of identity management is the key to tighten security in accordance with port security. However, the security can be pushed higher with the TWIC extended beyond the physical credential. Ports and government authorities will not have to contend with lost, stolen or forged badges. Biometrics Research Group estimates that if the extension of TWIC credentialing was extended to all facility access control functions in the United States, then an additional US$750 million in revenue could be realized by biometrics manufacturers.

One more thing that should be considered is the use of fingerprint for identification. Fingerprint has a wide applicability for many years, but not everyone has a readable fingerprint and the problem is a significant disadvantage for such a method to be used in the maritime industry. Both at sea and ashore, the use of protective clothing and all weather gear often render finger-based identity checking impractical. Should there be other contactless biometric modalities to be considered such as iris or face recognition?

Above all, while there are many types of security systems, port security is still a huge playground for biometrics to show its top-notch security. According to MarketsandMarkets report, port security market continues to grow fast and worth $36.99 billion by 2018. And we believed that biometric technology will soon take its share and help to improve the global port security environment.