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Coast Guard to unveil security systems

Underwater surveillance methods two years in the making

From Mike Ahlers

Coast Guard

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Coast Guard plans to unveil sonar systems and robotic cameras Wednesday that it will use to safeguard cruise liners, merchant ships and other vessels from attacks in American ports.

The Coast Guard said it has spent more than two years developing and testing the new "underwater port security system."

It will be used to protect port facilities and important vessels from such underwater threats as swimmers, divers and bombs.

There are two parts to the system, the Coast Guard said.

One, the underwater inspection system, uses trained divers and robotic cameras to check ship hulls and piers. The cameras will be used when it is dangerous to put a diver in the water.

The second part is an integrated anti-swimmer system designed to detect underwater intruders.

It includes a commercially available device that detects and tracks potential threats, a Navy processor that classifies contacts, and a system that guides security forces to the threat.

It also has a sonar that can provide a picture of such quality that divers can be distinguished from swimmers.

The new systems will be deployed when necessary to protect high-value ships and events, the Coast Guard said.

They will be used by maritime safety and security teams, the Coast Guard's SWAT-like units.

The teams also have underwater loudspeakers to warn that people may be coming too close to protected ships or piers.

The Coast Guard is to unveil the system Wednesday at the Coast Guard Integrated Support Command in San Pedro, California.

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