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Security Inspections on Hulls: Everything You Need To Know

Why is Hull Security Important

Drug smuggling and human trafficking are major problems, especially at borders. Manpower has n increased and the quality of technology has increased dramatically throughout recent years. Let's look at the example of the United States and Mexico border (always a hot topic for discussion). The length of the border is 1,933 miles on land, a very difficult area to completely lock down and manage. However, structural provisions, sensors and other provisions can be made to reduce the likelihood of illegal entry.

The Pacific border of the United States is approximately 7,623 miles long. This number is enlarged by the Alaskan and Hawaiian borders, but the point is still there to be made - this is a massive distance to protect. Additionally, there are exponentially more miles of open water space for smugglers to travel around and there are only so many non-human measures you can take to protect these borders.

How Does Smuggling Happen?

There is also limited documentation available regarding how much is being smuggled in since we can only document what we have caught. Sergeant Todd Rakos of the San Diego Harbor Police spoke at the Maritime Security West conference recently in San Diego, stating that he estimates that the various law enforcement officials are able to catch only 5% of the actual drug, human and weapon trafficking across the US-Mexican border.

How are they getting across? Troy Nicol, Officer of the San Diego Harbor Police believes there are four main methods:

  1. Overt Smuggling in Small Speed Boats
  2. Covert Smuggling in Small Yachts or Pleasure Boats
  3. Submersible Smuggling Using Makeshift Submersible Crafts
  4. Container Ship Smuggling
These all involve the use of the on-deck space where humans can easily access once on the craft. Stopping these options involves manned inspections of the vessels and keeping an eye out for suspicious activity. Often Overt Smuggling on Small Speed Boats occurs at night time to conceal the boats and they travel to a non port docking to pass the contraband.

Covert Smuggling and Container ship smuggling occurs when the contraband is hidden on board the vessel and the ships enter our ports. Submersible smuggling is simply a more advanced version of covert smuggling. However, there is a spin off of Submersible smuggling that criminals are using to deliver their contraband. That is, using the submerged structures (the hulls of the vessels) to hold the illegal goods. This is often referred to as a "tick box" or parasitic device to protect the goods but skip past inspections at ports.

Hull Inspection Regulations

There are very few hull inspection regulations in place for security purposes. Many ports implement "random" checks or checks from suspicious destinations by dive teams, but there are no actual requirements for a hull inspection on an inbound ship. There are many stories like ones from the ICE unit in Miami, where they find a tick box on a hull like this one:

Smuggling Drugs

Drugs are one thing. A nuclear weapon is another. Officer Nicol estimates the size of a nuclear warhead to be around the size of a coffee can. There appears to be enough room in the tick box for a coffee can.

Gary Anthony Ackerman, a Research Director with the U.S. Homeland Security Department recently stated, "The prospect of terrorists detonating a nuclear device on American soil sometime within the next quarter-century is real and growing. Such a calamitous attack would represent a game-changing event far exceeding the impact of 9/11 on the nation."

Remotely Operated Vehicles for Hull Security

Mandatory hull inspections is difficult with a dive team, it would be extremely costly to have the necessary manpower to perform these, and it would be extremely time consuming. Our ports are too busy to support this type of activity. However, operating a Deep Trekker Mini ROV that can be deployed in seconds and perform the same hull inspection makes it cost effective and feasible to have these inspections be mandatory and industry standard.

With Deep Trekker ROVs, port authorities and border security professionals are able to perform an efficient hull inspection on every single vessel to pass through their waters without the need to send a human into the water, or incur the high costs and delay of dry-docking. Contraband inspections can be performed efficiently, regularly, and without risk to a human underwater.

There are several reasons why users should consider an ROV in lieu of divers for hull security inspections.

  • Save money and time by understanding what is happening under your vessel without diver intervention.
  • Make the most of any necessary dive time by pre-inspecting with an underwater drone.
  • Proactively manage your fuel efficiency by conducting regular ROV inspections of your hull to determine optimal cleaning and paint schedules.
  • Completing hull inspections can give insight as to whether or not the structure of your ship is compromised.
  • Underwater vessel inspections confirm that your hull is clear of barnacles and other invasive marine life.
  • Provide ease of mind.

How Does an ROV Improve Security Inspection on Hulls

There are numerous ways that the use of an ROV improves security inspections on hulls.

  • Effective
    • Inspections completed with a Deep Trekker are accurate and effective. Equipped with 4K cameras and powerful lighting, the internal cameras allow users to get eyes in the water and on the hull of the ship. Video recordings and photos can be taken for further examination.
    • Sonar add-ons ensure accurate inspections in even the most turbid of waters.
  • Straightforward
    • Deep Trekker ROVs are easy to use and quick to deploy. Minimal training is required before a user can confidently and accurately pilot the ROV. Quick deployment gets eyes in the water ASAP for efficient investigation.
  • Portable
    • The battery-powered ROVs don’t require topside power, meaning you don’t have to lug around any external power sources. The 6-8 hour battery life allows users to bring the robot to whatever remote location is needed. Finally, a customized carrying case provides easy transport of the ROV when not in use. The case also allows for convenient storage of the robot on any size vessel.
  • Cost-Saving
    • Using an ROV to gain underwater awareness can significantly cut down on costs associated with divers or dry docking. Additionally, the quick deployment saves valuable time during inspection processes.
    • ROVs have many other valuable roles to fill on a defense vessel as well. Applications such as target location and identification, payload delivery, salvage, and critical infrastructure inspection are greatly simplified and much safer using Deep Trekker’s versatile and capable platforms.

Learn more about how Deep Trekker products are being used in the defense industry or contact an industry specialist today! When you’re ready for an ROV of your own, reach out for your customized quote.

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