Our work

SOBEK: low-cost waterside security solutions

Free transport of goods and persons has traditionally characterized most sea ports. After September 11, 2001 all this changed and legislation such as the International Ship and Port facility Security code (2004) was enforced.

Focus has been set on control procedures and enhancing security for assets on the landside in ports (quays, terrains, premises), so-called landside security. Security measures for the waterside domain are largely absent and form today's Achilles' heel in ports. Waterside intruders pose a terrorist threat or engage in theft or smuggling. The main threats come from small, fast boats or divers. Drugs attached to ships' hulls for instance are routinely removed by divers. But what does that tell us about the possibilities for terrorists to attach something to a ship's hull? Port facilities, bridges, weirs, tunnels, cargo ships, ferries and cruiseliners are potential targets. In the near future EU legislation and important partners for international trade (e.g. the US) will demand more and more waterside security.


Finding underwater intruders in a port environment with currently available products is a challenge. Most products use active sonar, similar to what marine mammals use for orientation: an emitted short sound pulse reflects to anything on its way. The returned signal provides information about the underwater environment, such as the presence of intruders. However, a port environment is often acoustically reverberant: reflections from sea bed, quays and ship hulls result in false alarms, limiting performance of these systems. Also, they are generally very expensive. There is a need for solutions that reliably detect intruders against minimal costs. TNO's SOBEK concept is robust and much cheaper as it is based on mere listening. It is also sustainable: as no sound is emitted, the system does not betray its presence and no harm is done to underwater life. Energy consumption is much lower. The anticipated system is user-friendly, allowing for temporary, mobile deployment without perturbing routine port operations and logistics.

See also our flyer about SOBEK

SOBEK: New solutions for waterside security



Dr. ir. Martijn Clarijs

  • sensor technology
  • sonar
  • port security
  • underwater technology

70 years of Defence Research

We use anonymous cookies to enhance the use of our site.