Southwest Public Safety Technology Center Key in Forging Public-Private Partnership
The University of Houston is being credited with playing a pivotal role in the creation of the Houston Ship Channel Security District, which was approved unanimously by Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday morning and was publicly announced at a news conference today.
The development of the security district, a public-private partnership that will fund enhancements to security technology, infrastructure and processes along the ship channel, was done in large part by Pat Bellamy, chairman of the Houston Ship Channel Security Council and director of UH’s Southwest Public Safety Technology Center (SWTC).
“Competitive cooperation is easier said than achieved. However, in an area such as the security of the Port of Houston, there can be no weak link in the chain,” said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Bill Diehl. “Every facility must cooperate and contribute to harden the port from terrorists. That is why I feel this port has been very fortunate to have UH’s Southwest Public Technology Center and, specifically, its director, Mr. Pat Bellamy, guiding the creation of the district.”
The security district includes members of the East Harris County Manufacturers Association, the Port of Houston Authority and more than 100 refining, chemical and marine facilities. The industry partners will provide funds to the district to help cover federal grant matching requirements, along with operations and maintenance expenses.
The funding also will supplement more than $30 million secured by Harris County from Department of Homeland Security port security grants to install technology and infrastructure to enhance security and to increase preparedness and response capabilities.
“The University of Houston has played an instrumental role in the creation of the Houston Ship Channel Security District, and I am pleased that the Harris County Commissioners Court has approved the move,” said U.S. Rep. Gene Green. “The creation of this security district will provide safety to the residents of the area, local business and their employees, and it will also deter terrorism and help protect the nation. I support the University of Houston and the Southwest Public Safety Technology Center, as they look for ways to enhance our security, and hope that this strategy will be put in place throughout Texas and the nation.”
Although primarily intended to deter terrorism, officials said, the security district also will protect neighboring residents and workers, deter theft and mitigate the results of manmade and natural disasters. It also will improve business resurgence after disasters so the supply chain can “link up” and commerce can recover more quickly.
“The leadership shown by the University of Houston’s Southwest Public Safety Technology Center and its director, Pat Bellamy, was crucial to making the port security district an important part of this region’s homeland security efforts,” said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. “Mr. Bellamy’s technical expertise, along with his professional relationships with leaders in the public, private, and education sectors, helped make the district a reality. We thank the University of Houston for its commitment and support of this endeavor since its conception.”
UH’s SWTC entered into a three-way agreement with Harris County and the Houston Port Authority to carry out sophisticated planning, development, design, construction and implementation of port security projects, according to the center’s executive director and electrical and computer engineering professor Steven Pei.
SWTC provided “high-level reviews, assessments and oversight,” which helped facilitate creation of the security district, Pei said.
“UH did what it always does in these efforts: It enabled a ‘can-do’ mindset and provided a neutral environment in which issues were discussed openly and resolved appropriately,” Bellamy said.
The stakeholders understood the importance of the project and worked well together, he added, making a complex development effort manageable.
“It is critical for government, academia, industry and the general public to work together on matters of national and regional security,” said Joseph Tedesco, dean of UH’s Cullen College of Engineering, which houses SWTC. “As an academic, nonprofit institution dedicated to public service, UH can assume the unique role of being the neutral nexus that brings together the different missions and interests to forge a regional consensus and vision. The college’s Southwest Public Safety Technology Center was instrumental in facilitating this effort, further demonstrating the critical role of UH in the community.”
The Coast Guard’s Diehl, who serves as captain of the port, said Bellamy married “the intellectual knowledge of the University of Houston with the industrial might of the facilities along the Ship Channel to make a security ring of steel” within the upper ship channel.
The effort will not be complete until the work force required to support the district is developed, Bellamy said, “but we have been working with regional educators to get this done.”