Sabotage by divers may have disastrous consequences. In California, the Port of Long Beach has chosen the Underwater Surveillance System from KONGSBERG to safeguard against this.

  • Ove Ronny Haraldsen
    Group Communication Manager

Night has fallen over the control centre at Port of Long Beach, one of two harbours nearby the metropolitan of Los Angeles in the USA. A container ship fully loaded with clothes and electronics is pulling in to quay. This is one of the most important gateways for trade between the USA and Asia. In 2010, Port of Long Beach handled more than 6.2 million containers. All movements at the port are closely monitored from the operation room, both over the water’s surface and under the water. Suddenly, a symbol appears on one of the many monitors.


A sonar has detected an object moving in a direct line and heading for the harbour basin. A yellow square on the screen initially classifies the object as unidentified. At the same time, powerful computers are working to interpret the signals transmitted by the object. The operators watch closely – is there a unknown diver in the harbour? Suddenly, the object makes a manoeuvre even the best swimmers could not manage. On the screen, the square changes from yellow to green. The system has identified it – a seal hunting for some fish.

The Port of Long Beach has a rich marine fauna, and this really puts the KONGSBERG system to the test. Advanced processing of signals is required in order to distinguish divers and mini submarines from seals, sharks or dolphins. At the same time, the Port of Long Beach aims to make sure that the marine life is not harmed by the sonar waves in the water. This involves the ability to turn down the intensity of the sonar waves when sea mammals are nearby. According to Project Manager Gary Texeira, the system from KONGSBERG was the only one to fulfil absolute all requirements. “The selection process for this system was long and drawn out. A number of problems emerged when we started to search for a system, as early as 2006. These included environmental concerns and the fact that we did not have fundamental knowledge of how sonars could be utilised to monitor the harbour. KONGSBERG has been part of the process from the very start, and has demonstrated that their system was the right product at the right time,” explains Mr. Texeira.

KONGSBERG was the first company in the world to provide an integrated system for underwater surveillance. The Underwater Surveillance System is made up of active and passive sonars, placed on the seabed or under the water line. These sonars transmit signals to powerful computers, which are fed with complex algorithms and statistical tables. “This is where the data is processed, filtered and interpreted,” explains Project Manager and Doctor of Engineering Oddbjørn Eriksen from Kongsberg Defence Systems in Stjørdal. “This is world class processing of signals. The ability to classify an object in the water is one of KONGSBERG’s major strengths, but also one of the most difficult processes with which we work. We have a number of Doctors of Engineering in Billingstad, outside Oslo, working with signal processing alone. They are continuously working on further developments and improvements to the system,” Mr. Eriksen confirms.

The system has been operational since June 2010 at Port of Long Beach California. Project Manager Gary Texeira can report positive experiences with the system so far. “The operators are now very comfortable with the new technology. Every day that passes, they become more and more familiar with the system and its capacity.”

“What is your experience of workingwith KONGSBERG?”

“KONGSBERG have provided high quality from design to installation. They have listened to and taken heed of our environmental and operational concerns. KONGSBERG have developed a professional interface for both us and the companies that lease from us. They kept to every single deadline for installation, without interrupting daily operations,” continues Mr. Texeira. In addition to the actual system, KONGSBERG have delivered programs for training and maintenance. “KONGSBERG have done an excellent job in identifying and implementing a qualitydriven program for training and maintenance. Their response time to requests is impressive, particularly when you take into consideration the time difference and geographical distances involved,” states Mr.Texeira.

The American market has shown a high level of interest in KONGSBERG’s Underwater Surveillance System. The Port of Long Beach provides an excellent example of the system, when representatives from KONGSBERG demonstrate the system to harbours on the east and west coasts of the USA. Moreover, the company is in the process of installing the system at two Turkish marine bases. This project far exceeds that at Port of Long Beach in terms of both size and complexity. “In Turkey, the area to be covered is so much larger, requiring a higher number of different types of sonars than in California. The deliveries to Turkey comprise instruments which automatically measure velocity of sound and any underwater vessels for inspection,” concludes Gunnar Øiaas, Project Manager for the systems to be delivered to Turkey.