After 10 years of development, an Andover, Mass., small business has introduced an interlocking sea barrier that it says can protect ports, oil rigs, bridges and other sea-based infrastructures from terrorist attacks.
Justin Bishop, founder and chief technology officer of HALO Maritime Defense Systems, said that after the USS Cole bombing in Yemen in 2000, he was motivated to invent something that could prevent similar attacks.
It uses a series of large, yellow non-toxic, polyethylene blocks that lock together and are reinforced by steel cables, and moored to the ocean floor. For the system to work, there must be two walls. It is not the plastic material that gives them their strength, but rather the tons of water in between them, he explained.
“I wanted something that could protect against a small boat attack, but not be so myopic and think there would only be one boat,” he said. Terrorist organizations such as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka would use swarming attacks with multiple boats, he said.
If a boat smashes into the wall, the kinetic energy is absorbed and dispersed in the tons of water between the two walls, and shoots up in a plume. Even if a boat laden with explosives were to successfully take out the first wall, it could not get through the second, he said. The explosion would alert those monitoring the sea-based infrastructure being protected that an attack was under way.
It is not just a “floating wall, flopping around in the sea,” but also doubles as a stable platform, he said. Structures could be potentially placed on top where sensors or weapons could sit. If one section is damaged in an attack, it could be quickly replaced.
Bishop considers the Middle East, with its numerous ports and offshore oil rigs, his primary market. He conducted the first tests in United Arab Emirates waters where a remotely controlled boat smashed into the wall at 50 miles per hour and did not penetrate the barrier.
“As a small company, we decided to put our efforts here where you’ve got credible threats, billion dollar assets and people are willing to pay for something more than just a floating fence,” he said.