TDC Security Alert: Observant Vessel Security Officer Reports Suspicious Photographer

A Ship’s Mate, who also was assigned the collateral duties of Vessel Security Officer (VSO), telephoned the TDC team recently to report a suspicious incident. The VSO, who had also graduated from the TDC Security training class, related a story concerning a "suspicious photographer" at his port facility.

As the Mate was returning to his vessel which was berthed at a major East Coast port facility, he observed an individual who was taking pictures of the vessels and the surrounding pier area. Accordingly, the VSO located a facility security guard and together, they approached this individual to ask him what he was doing. The photographer said he was just interested in taking some ship pictures.

The VSO and the security guard then advised this individual that photography was not allowed and asked him to leave. Remembering what he had been taught at Security training, the Mate took the time to snap his own picture of the suspicious individual with his own personal digital camera. Later, the Mate was able to describe the suspicious individual as a dark skinned male, about 30 years old, average build, with no accent.

Still later, the VSO repeated the story to other facility security personnel, who told the Mate that they had their own surveillance video of a male trying to breach the port security fence. That attempt to enter the facility had failed, but upon further investigation they discovered that the digital image on the VSO’s camera matched the individual captured on the surveillance video. They immediately reported the incident to USCG, Company and law enforcement authorities for further investigation.

•TDC Analysis:

This is a classic example of a VSO doing the job he was trained to do. He noticed suspicious activity, took appropriate action and followed up with reporting and evidence to law enforcement authorities. The photographer was engaged in activities that may or may not have been indicative of more sinister intentions. There are numerous examples of similar, suspicious activities surrounding airports, transportation systems, government buildings, and other likely targets. Captured surveillance materials reveal that terrorist cells engage in detailed, long term information gathering of data for likely targets. In this case, the photographer might have been part of a plot or perhaps he was just a maritime “shutter bug.” Nevertheless, the VSO did the right thing. - Compiled by the TDC Maritime Team

•About TDC

Tactical Defense Concepts (TDC) recognizes the importance and urgency of providing threat awareness and security services to the maritime sector. TDC has provided security training for thousands of maritime personnel. TDC’s services are in compliance with the requirements of the United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Ship and Port and Facility Security (ISPS) Code Amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (SOLAS Convention) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).