The Port of Orange this week finished up a $3.5 million project to improve security, including a new command center, or guard tower; and new surveillance cameras with the hardware to run them.
Some of the improvements are in place for future port projects planned or still in progress, said Director Gene Bouillion.

The previous guard tower was a basic portable building, large enough for one or two security personnel and served the port well for many years. 

Then Sept. 11, 2001, changed that, and the Department of Homeland Security routinely issues updated requirement orders.
The new tower, now called a command center, is substantially larger and contains sophisticated equipment to help personnel monitor security cameras. 

The road there is eight feet above sea level, and the floor of the center is 10 feet above. 

Bouillion said that, for obvious reasons, he could not disclose details about the number of cameras or their locations.

“We ship a lot of containers from here,” he said. “Truckloads and truckloads of cargo comes in here, and it’s all stuffed in containers and transhipped back to Houston; then goes somewhere else beyond Houston – which is a very high-profile area.”

The new security will also help with future operations at the port, which is targeted to concentrate more on barge transportation. 

Eventually the guards will be able to read “TWIC” cards, which all truck drivers nationwide will be required to have, as well as be registered in a national database. 

TWIC stands for Transporter Worker Identification Credentials. 

Of the $3.5 million, the port received a $700,000 grant from Homeland Security.

“It was supposed to be a matching grant,” Bouillion said. “But [the total cost] turned out to be a lot more, when we realized we had to raise the elevation another five feet from what we thought we were going to be – which turned out to be a good thing after [Hurricane] Ike.

“We have to maintain a roster of who’s behind our gates at any time. If something happens, we have to know who is there and who is authorized to be there.”

About 100 loads a day enter the port, Bouillion said.

After 9/11, Homeland Security required the port to monitor incoming ships, the docks and other areas.

“The cost of the personnel, we could see was going to be overwhelming unless we were automated some day,” Bouillion said.

Several drivers entering the port in the last few years were found to have fake IDs, he said. In each case, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office had to be called; and some drivers were eventually deported.

Bouillion added, “With the new requirements, small ports like ourselves have to do just like the big ports.”