Port Manatee: where security meets efficiency

Florida’s fastest-growing seaport has created new efficiencies that strengthen the port’s bottom line as well as its security.

As the nearest United States deep-water seaport to the expanding Panama Canal, Port Manatee in Florida is a critical node in a global transportation network.

Each year, the port handles approximately 8 million tons of cargo – ranging from fresh fruit to power plant turbines, gasoline and a host of other commodities – with hundreds of workers entering and exiting the 1,100-acre property on a daily basis. Ensuring the security of the port’s infrastructure and its cargo is a critical priority, but vehicles and personnel need to move efficiently through the port, as well.

“Because of the dynamic nature of our business, finding an off-the-shelf solution that solves these issues is very difficult,” says David St. Pierre, Port Manatee’s Director of Seaport Security. “We needed a solution that could be configured to our specific needs.”



St. Pierre emphasized that although the variation among ports encompasses different cargo types and modes of transportation - including rail, commercial truck and pipeline - security is a common denominator. Port Manatee partnered with Siemens with the primary goal of implementing an access control system to meet the requirements of the federal Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) system. But with plans to diversify its capabilities and an ambition to become one of America’s premier seaports, Port Manatee also wanted to leverage its access control system to create new efficiencies that strengthen the port’s bottom line while also attracting and retaining customers.

An integrated solution

Its solution was to implement an integrated access control and physical security information management system that enables staff to manage access control and systems such as video surveillance, fire safety, and lighting through a single interface. By combining two technologies – the SiPass access control system and the Vantage Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) solution – Port Manatee has been able to create a one-to-one match that enables them to monitor and document the services and cargo that users interact with.

To manage its diversity of users, cargo types and transportation modes, Port Manatee worked with Siemens to create custom workflows that create accountability trails that are specific to various scenarios. Holders of the federal TWIC card, for example, are allowed unescorted access through the port, while non-TWIC holders must receive a temporary access credential and be escorted and monitored at all times while on the port. Other workflows are specific to the type of commodity being transported, with perishable goods requiring refrigeration having their own specific workflow, to give just one example.

We are a continuously evolving business. As our customers’ needs change our needs change, and we have to be configured in a way that we can support that.
David St. Pierre, Port Manatee’s Director of Seaport Security

The implementation of the integrated system from Siemens coincided with a Wi-Fi implementation that enables security officers to access and input data into the system from anywhere on the port. The end result, St. Pierre says, is a much more detailed and robust accounting of the activities of port users than would otherwise be possible. Additional enhancements include an application known as the enhanced audit trail, which creates a long-term record of the activities of port users that helps the port to track trends and anticipate future needs.


“We are a continuously evolving business,” St. Pierre says. “As our customers’ needs change our needs change, and we have to be configured in away that we can support that.”

Bottom-line improvements

The integrated system also enables Port Manatee to better recoup and even reduce costs associated with security. When a temporary access credential is created, for example, the system is configured so that the appropriate escort fees are automatically assessed to users. The fully-automated remote operation of a port entry plaza to reduce staffing costs is now possible thanks to the system, as well.

Port Manatee is Florida’s fastest-growing seaport, and its integrated access control and security information management technology helps make it one of the nation’s most efficient and nimble, as well. “We have a unique geographic position and unique assets,” says Deputy Executive Director Dave Sanford. “We’re really very well positioned to diversify our cargoes for the future.”

The security department is on duty 24/7, operating from its technologically advanced access control center at the port's main entrance. Security personnel monitor the port’s more than 1,100 acres from the high-tech center via a sophisticated surveillance system, enabling vehicles to move quickly through the port with a high level of unobtrusive scrutiny. Security personnel also patrol the port’s grounds via a fleet of hybrid vehicles and monitor waterways using the video surveillance systems and a variety of watercraft.




Picture credits: Port Manatee

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