A wall in the water: TTI researchers work to standardize water barriers

On the morning of Oct. 12, 2000, a small boat loaded with explosives approached the port side of the United States (U.S.) Navy destroyer USS Cole, which was harbored in Aden, Yemen, for a routine fuel stop. An explosion ripped a large gash in the side of the ship, killing 17 sailors and 2 perpetrators. The suicide bombing, carried out by al-Qaeda operatives, demonstrated how terrorist elements organize and execute sophisticated attacks against U.S. targets.

Floating water barriers are gaining acceptance for their ability to provide positive protection to a facility and its personnel. These portable barriers form a protective perimeter around a ship or landside object for the purpose of keeping boats from entering the protective area. However, the performance of these barriers varies from manufacturer to manufacturer as much as the performance requirements vary among user agencies and facilities.

Responding to a request from ASTM International, the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) is partnering with other industry agencies to develop uniform standards for physically testing and evaluating the dynamic performance of waterfront barriers.

“Currently we are working to publish a set of standards, because there are about half a dozen companies producing boat barriers or channelizing devices used waterside, and there’s no standard by which to evaluate and test them all,” says TTI Division Head and Research Engineer Lance Bullard. “A standard is important because when a company is evaluating their site and trying to decide what type of barrier to purchase, they can use the standard to compare the performance of different barriers and make an informed decision about what will meet their need.”

The standard will (1) address the performance of full-scale dynamic impact tests by testing laboratories and (2) establish evaluation and performance criteria for various types of waterside barriers. The purpose of the standard is to establish (1) a definitive test methodology for establishing the crash performance of a boat barrier and (2) specify data collection and evaluation criteria for those tests that are performed. The result will be the development of a uniform standard for the performance evaluation and testing of waterfront boat barrier perimeter security devices.

“There are other waterside assets that boat barriers can be used for such as liquid natural gas terminals, cruise ship terminals and ports that receive various types of containers,” says Bullard. “It is our hope that the standards the research team develops will help to make these areas as safe as possible by allowing specifying agencies to make the correct barrier choice.”

Boat barrier

Boat barriers like the ones shown above are essential protection for many water-accessible terrorist targets because these barriers provide both deterrence and physical protection against unauthorized surface vessel intrusion. The ASTM Boat Barrier Standard will bring universal guidelines benefitting both users and producers of boat barriers.


This Issue

Setting the Standard

Newsletter cover. TTI research helps develop the procedures and standards that shape our national transportation system.

Volume 45, Number 2
June 2009
Issue Overview

On this page:

“A standard is important because when someone is evaluating their site and trying to decide what type of barrier to purchase, they can use the standard to compare the performance of different barriers and make an informed decision about what will meet their need.”Lance Bullard, TTI Division Head

For more information:

Lance Bullard
(979) 845-6153
l-bullard@tamu.edu