Floating platforms called Sea Sentinels anchored to the seafloor will include a command center, living quarters for a 15-person crew, a helipad, docking space, and a hangar for unmanned aerial vehicles used in wider surveillance. The facilities will also include space for oceanographic research equipment and laboratories.
Ships move between the two large platforms at about 10 knots as antennas read wireless signals emitted by radio-frequency identification, or RFID, tags affixed to each cargo container. Today's transponders can report signs of tampering by detecting when doors open and close after departure inspection, and next-generation sensors will use gas chromatography and other technologies to sniff for radiation, explosives residues, and signs of human cargo, such as urine.
- Sea Handlers
If sensors flag a suspicious container, officials call the Coast Guard, which could use SeaAway's special ship, called a Sea Handler, to retrieve the cargo. The craft relies on suction devices to mate with the ship while a crane transfers the cargo to the Sea Handler's blast-containment chamber. In nuclear or other worst-case scenarios, the submerged chamber can minimize exposure and damage.
- Hull Scan
Underwater vehicles use cameras to scan hulls for obvious signs of damage or tampering. For subtler inspections, officials rely on sonar devices mounted to the platforms. These record a hull's acoustic profile and compare the measurements against baseline signatures, stored for all ships.