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Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (MPD-SBMA)

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15 May 2009

SBMA eyes modern radar, CCTVs for close monitoring of vessels

Subic authorities are banking on upgrading its port monitoring equipment with radars and closed-circuit television systems (CCTVs) to heighten security in this free port and prevent the furtive entrance or exit of small watercraft used in smuggling activities.

Administrator Armand Arreza of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) said the agency would like to acquire a complete system of maritime surveillance and monitoring equipment as mandated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

“Close monitoring is basically our key requirement. That's why we want a modern maritime set-up,” explained Arreza who previously outlined the same plan to the House committee on dangerous drugs, which is investigating last year’s attempt to smuggle illegal drugs into this free port.

Arreza said the SBMA has anticipated these security concerns at the outset and has thus included the installation of monitoring systems in the $215-million Subic port modernization program, a flagship infrastructure project of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration.

He added that under the phased port development plan, the modern monitoring systems should be in place before the end of this year.

Prior to the acquisition of modern surveillance equipment, however, Arreza said the SBMA is streamlining the maritime traffic management system in this free port and subjecting its seaport personnel to an exhaustive training on port operations.

The primary objective, he added, is to prevent the undetected entry or exit of small watercraft like yachts, rubber boats and bancas that could be used for smuggling activities.

“Unlike ships, tankers and other vessels which are equipped with an automatic identification system (AIS) that registers their presence in port control stations, small vessels are harder to monitor since they only appear as small dots on radar screens,” said Arreza.

He added that there is a possibility that small watercraft can evade detection and leave the port’s premises without proper documents, since Subic port personnel for the meantime are relying on scheduled physical checks to ensure the presence of these crafts.

Arreza explained that once a vessel is suspected to have departed without notice, the protocol is to immediately contact the SBMA Harbor Patrol or the Philippine Coast Guard to make an interception.

“When all else fails and the craft escapes interception, our safety net is we can go after the ship’s agent,” he added.

Arreza said, however, that the projected installation of modern radars and CCTV systems would make the port of Subic safer and less prone to smuggling attempts.

“Once the closed-circuit cameras are installed, all vessels berthed in Subic Bay Freeport’s 14 piers and wharves can be monitored 24/7 in one control room,” Arreza said.

“In this case, our highly-trained port personnel, coupled with this surveillance system and complete radar equipment, can easily detect illegal departures and take the required actions and countermeasures,” he added. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

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