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SeaAway, an RFID startup, has developed a "prior-to-port" security system to prevent potential disaster before it reaches the shores.
By Beth Bacheldor
Oct 01, 2007— Since Sept. 11, ports around the world have been using technology, including RFID, to thwart terrorists from sneaking a weapon of mass destruction into the country as cargo. Now SeaAway, a startup in Titusville, Fla., is designing an RFID detection system to prevent potential disaster before it reaches the shores.

"We want to make the world a safer place," says Steve Kroecker, SeaAway's chairman of the board and senior VP of design and development. "This has been a passion more than a job."

The company is designing Sea Sentinel Platforms—fully staffed, semi-submersible platforms 100 feet in diameter that will sit side-by-side approximately 12 to 15 nautical miles offshore, forming a security checkpoint that ships can pass through before heading into ports. The platforms will be equipped with RFID interrogators and other electronic components to detect whether container security devices (CSDs) affixed to cargo have been tampered with or opened. The Sea Sentinel will also have multibeam sonar imaging technology to scan ships for the presence of contraband or damage, as well as passive acoustic monitors that can help determine if a ship's acoustic "signature" is different from the original baseline scan taken before the ship left its originating port.

If there are any concerns, SeaAway says it will follow the laws and guidelines of the country in which the platforms have been installed, and call the appropriate authorities. If suspicious cargo were detected, SeaAway's Sea Handler—a vessel that will be designed to remove suspect containers from ships while at sea—could be called in. The Sea Handler will be equipped to detect any chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agents and have a detachable blast containment deck in the event that an explosive device is detected inside a container. Optional Deep Water Buoys will use satellite, radar and sonar to monitor vessel traffic up to 500 miles offshore.

Kroecker says SeaAway is designing and building its first six platforms, which will take at least 18 to 24 months, for a Middle Eastern country that plans to use them to help secure three of its ports. The platforms alone will cost roughly $150 million. To help defray the cost, ports could require ships to pay a passage fee, encouraging participation by granting priority in docking and unloading.

SeaAway hopes to sell the data it collects to ports, government agencies, shipping companies and even manufacturers. "Sure, we are using our abilities to safeguard shipments prior to their reaching port," Kroecker says. "But now that manufacturers are so seriously considering inventory control and just-in-time manufacturing, we can also read the RFID data, such as when goods are entering ports, and deliver that commercial information to the manufacturer or a retailer. What we are trying to do is make everything more efficient and safer."
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