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Maritime Security Pilot Underway in North Carolina

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Photo of a car driveing through the backscatter portal (main image) and TSA officers evaluate the images.Backscatter imaging technology – security screening technology already used at airports – is finding a new use in the maritime environment at a North Carolina ferry terminal. On Aug. 18, 2008, TSA began a four-week pilot in which it is using backscatter imaging to screen vehicles for explosives before they are driven onto the Cherry Branch-Minnesott Beach Ferry near Havelock.

Prior to boarding, drivers proceed slowly through a screening portal which captures high-quality, photo-like images from three sides of a vehicle. After exiting the portal, drivers are instructed by transportation security officers to stop for approximately 10-15 seconds while the images are evaluated. If the review of the images indicates a need for additional screening, drivers are directed to a secondary location where TSA-certified explosives detection canine teams are standing by.

"Vehicle screening technology is yet another tool that TSA can deploy to respond to threats that arise from new intelligence or as part of major events," said John Sammon, TSA assistant administrator, Office of Transportation Sector Network Management. "This test will allow us to develop a plan for future deployment during times of heightened security threat levels."

Working with local law enforcement and the North Carolina Department of Transportation, TSA is helping protect thousands of passengers who will pass through the terminal and ride the Cherry Branch-Minnesott Beach Ferry during the pilot.