October 22, 2004

TSA tests new ferry security technology

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in consultation with the U.S. Coast Guard, has started to conduct explosives screening on automobiles boarding the Cape May-Lewes Ferry in Cape May, N.J.

It is testing advanced explosives detection technology today as part of what's called the Secure Automobile Inspection Lanes (SAIL) project.

The 30-day test uses a mobile screening van, fitted with an advanced non-invasive screening technology called Z Backscatter. Passengers briefly exit their vehicle and then the screening van slowly drives next to the car or truck and screens for explosives. The entire process takes less than a minut

"The SAIL prototype will test technology that can detect the presence of conventional and plastic explosives," said Rear Adm. David M. Stone, USN (Ret.), Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for the Transportation Security Administration. "This is yet another tool that can used to respond to specific threats that arise from new intelligence or major events."

Z Backscatter is one of a number of technologies TSA has tested for various modes of transportation in recent months. In addition to SAIL, TSA is analyzing systems to screen rail and airline passengers for explosives using walk-through trace portal machines and document scanners. The agency has also begun testing explosives detection systems for screening cargo transported by land, rail and air.

TSA screeners will operate the equipment for the SAIL pilot, working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Delaware River and Bay Authority to manage this first-of-its-kind test for vehicle ferries in the United States.

In addition to the SAIL project, Department of Homeland Security agencies are working on other ferry security projects, including an interagency team led by the Coast Guard and TSA. This team is studying potential consequences of an attack on a ferry, possible explosive screening technologies, and the socio-economic effects of the different screening strategies. The results from the SAIL project will be used in this broader effort.

We will continue to cover this story in our FERRIES AND FAST CRAFT NEWS. Ferry security will also be in focus at next month's FERRIES 2004 event being held in Delray Beach, Fla., Nov. 8-10

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