Report: Small-vessel security to rely on tech tools

Technology will be a key component in reducing the terrorist threat associated with the nation's 13.2 million recreational and commercial small boats, according to a new strategy for small-vessel security released by the Homeland Security Department.

Risks include the possibility of small craft being used to carry explosives, weapons or terrorists to attack shoreline infrastructure or be transferred to land-based transportation, the report said.

Technology is needed for data reporting, analysis and sharing; boat tracking and detection; radiation detection; and surveillance, the report said.

The report envisions a more detailed risk identification and management strategy to be developed by the department along with the boating community. One of the chief features of the strategy will be technology, the report stated.

The 57-page document states that surveillance and tracking will be risk-based rather than universal.

"Surveillance of the entire maritime domain and the tracking of all small vessels are not contemplated by this strategy. Consistent with applicable privacy laws, increased surveillance and tracking may be appropriate, though, along the maritime border and in high-risk, high-traffic areas," the report says.

Surveillance, identification and tracking, anomaly detection and information-sharing technologies are active business areas for federal contractors. The report clearly points to opportunities for contracting in these areas, but the overall scope of the opportunities is not yet known.

Specific technologies recommended in the report are:
  • Low-cost, nonintrusive, small-vessel identification systems, such as radio frequency identification tags.
  • Adaptable miniature transponders.
  • Global Positioning System devices.
  • Cell phone-based recognition systems.
  • Anomaly detection instruments.
  • Advanced maritime radiation/nuclear detection technology for portable radiation detection equipment, mobile stand-off radiation detectors and fixed detectors.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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