Cameras set up along Delaware River south of city

Posted: October 18, 2012

If there is a boating accident, oil spill, or potential terrorist threat, a 14-mile stretch of the Delaware River just south of Philadelphia now has heightened surveillance.

A sophisticated system of cameras, radar, and video monitors designed by Boeing Co. has been set up at three undisclosed locations between the Commodore Barry Bridge, Marcus Hook, and Hog Island in Tinicum, aimed at providing increased riverfront security and the capacity to prevent, or react to, adverse events.

The area in Delaware County was selected to help protect five refineries on the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides of the Delaware, which supply the majority of the Northeast's gasoline, heating oil, and refined products, Boeing said.

On Tuesday, Boeing officers, elected and law enforcement officials, and members of the Coast Guard announced that 24-hour surveillance has been activated at key sites approaching the Commodore Barry Bridge, Philadelphia International Airport, and several ports to the north.

In 2008, the Coast Guard developed a plan, not publicly available, that identified security risks, gaps, and vulnerabilities in the river's "north sector," which is home to some of the largest East Coast refineries and the second-largest petrochemical port complex in the nation, Boeing said.

The report identified seven refineries, including the Delaware City refinery and Eagle Point in New Jersey, which has since closed.

In 2008, the refineries and the tankers serving them made up 43 percent of vessel traffic in the Delaware channel, according to Boeing, which in July 2011 was awarded a $4.4 million contract from the Delaware County Council to design the system.

Boeing has installed similar technology along the U.S. northern border with Canada and the southern borders of Arizona and Texas, and at U.S. embassies around the world.

Boeing Defense Space & Security in Ridley Park worked on the project.

"It is being used abroad today in support of U.S. government interests," Boeing director Mike Hettmann said. "This is the first installation of this system for port security."

The technology was demonstrated at a news briefing Tuesday in Chester, but the location of the surveillance - erected on elevated structures - was not disclosed for security reasons. Instead, officials and members of the media could see what the cameras were viewing on monitors inside a Delaware County emergency services truck.

The sensors and communications network were paid for by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security.

The cameras, monitored 24/7 by the Emergency Services Center in Middletown and the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center in Philadelphia, show all activity along the river, including boat traffic, views of refineries, shipping terminals, the PPL Park soccer stadium, the Commodore Barry Bridge, Hog Island, and Harrah's Casino & Racetrack in Chester.

"The cameras view the entire river, both sides," said Ed Truitt, director of Delaware County Emergency Services. "They pick up something as small as a guy on a jet ski."

Since the 2001 terror attacks, security protocols at U.S. ports have been stepped up. Ships coming to the United States are randomly boarded by the Coast Guard. Customs and Border Protection separately inspects ships and may order containers in ports to be opened and examined.

Customs and Border Protection requires that a cargo list and routing details be transmitted 24 hours before a U.S.-bound ship sails. The data are analyzed, and high-risk cargo is inspected before leaving foreign ports.

The long-term goal is to provide an "integrated surveillance network" similar to what Boeing has developed in Delaware County for the entire river, from the Delaware Bay to Fairless Hills, said Herb Packer, executive director of PennPORTS, a state agency and liaison to ports in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Erie.

The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority has been "very successful" at getting federal port security grants to erect fencing and other security "enhancements" around publicly owned terminals in Philadelphia, Packer said.

New Jersey has also applied for federal dollars, under the Delaware River Infrastructure Program, to use video cameras on the river.

Extending the surveillance to other parts of the Delaware will depend on Congress' allocating port security money for fiscal year 2013, Packer said. "Maybe then somebody will apply to extend this north and south."


Contact staff writer Linda Loyd at 215-854-2831 or lloyd@phillynews.com.

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