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Developing a Standard for Boat Barriers
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 August 2006 Feature
D. Lance Bullard, Jr., is an associate research engineer for the Safety and Structural Systems Division of the Texas Transportation Institute, Texas A&M University System. He is a registered professional engineer and full-time researcher. Bullard specializes in the design, development, conduct and analysis of full-scale vehicular crash tests involving highway safety and perimeter security barriers.

Maggie McGowan is a maritime transportation specialist for the United States Coast Guard’s Office of Port and Facility Activities in Washington, D.C. She is a retired lieutenant from the USCG and a licensed third mate in the U.S. Merchant Marines. She is currently serving as the co-chair of the ASTM F12.10.06 Boat Barrier Systems working group.

Developing a Standard for Boat Barriers

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, demonstrated that terrorist elements around the world are capable of organizing and executing sophisticated attacks against U.S. targets. Terrorists have already used suicide attacks by surface craft carrying explosives. In the attacks in the Middle East against the USS Cole in 2000 and the French oil tanker Limburg in 2002, surface crafts loaded with explosives detonated near the vessels’ hulls, causing extensive structural damage and loss of life.

In May 2002, a joint Moroccan-U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operation captured a four-man al Qaeda cell planning to attack U.S. and British ships in the Strait of Gibraltar using bomb-laden Zodiac speedboats. The operatives described to American intelligence officers their plan to acquire the speedboats, load them with high explosives, and after a series of test runs, utilize them as torpedoes against U.S. and British ships. Similar events have taken place and been directed at land-side targets. These attacks most often occur in the form of a bomb-laden car or truck.

ASTM Committee F12 on Security Systems and Equipment, responding to the need for increased safety and security against such attacks, is currently finishing the development of a new standard for land-based crash barriers. The need for a standard to evaluate and test barriers to protect water-side facilities has since been identified.

Barriers to Terror

Many water-side facilities within the United States, as well as facilities abroad, require protection from intrusion. Committee F12 has identified these facilities as:

• Airports;
• Barges;
• Bridges;
• Critical infrastructure;
• Cruise ships;
• Dams;
• Force protection;
• Liquified natural gas terminals;
• Nuclear facilities;
• Oil pipelines and platforms;
• Ports;
• Power plants;
• Refineries;
• Reservoirs;
• Tunnels and their intake vents;
• Weapons depots; and
• Any other high-value asset on the waterfront.

Check points, restricted access, and early warning methods are employed to protect the safety of personnel and facilities. However, after the breach of one or more of these layers of protection, physical barriers can serve as a last line of defense.

Why Develop a New Standard?

Floating water barriers are gaining acceptance for their ability to provide protection to a facility and its personnel. However, the performance of these barriers varies from manufacturer to manufacturer as much as the performance requirements vary among user agencies and facilities. As often occurs when a need is apparent, there is a plethora of solutions being developed without a standard way to test and evaluate them. In addition, the barrier manufacturers themselves do not have a standard to which they can design.

What Will the New Standard Include?

The U.S. Navy and Bureau of Reclamation currently have technical reports that define threat levels for their respective facilities. Subcommittee F12.10 on Systems, Products and Services, the group responsible for the new standard, discussed these documents and proposed a performance-based testing criteria based on threat-vessel kinetic energy and attack penetration distance. It is believed that a multiple performance level document is required to meet the needs of a wide variety of facilities, each of which requires its own level of protection.

The determination of appropriate vessel size and speed is currently being investigated by reviewing U.S. vessel registration documents. The foundation for the threat table will be the threat-vessel’s kinetic energy. Test designations would be a combination of energy level and penetration distance, i.e., K12-P4. A K12-P4 would indicate a boat barrier capable of stopping a vessel with 1,200,000 foot-poundsforce of energy in 80 feet (1,600 kilojoules of energy in 24 metres). The associated test speed will be calculated based on energy and weight of the vessel.

The length of a standard test installation required is a matter of discussion and remains to be determined. Three proposals were made for test installation length: 1) requiring a 100-ft (30.5 m) standard test installation, 2) basing the test installation on deflected distance, and 3) basing the test installation on K-rating. This issue is unresolved to date and will be the subject of future committee meetings.

Much work remains to develop this draft standard. Users, specifiers, and industry personnel are encouraged to contact co-author Maggie McGowan, U.S. Coast Guard (phone: 202/267-4132) about participating in the development of this standard. //

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