IDEX: U.S. Startup Debuts Barrier System to Guard Against Small Boat Attacks
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — After 10 years of development, an Andover, Mass., small business signed its first contract to sell 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 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 water. 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 underway.
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 and his late father Robert, had already invented one successful product, the Whisprwave floating barrier, that is designed to disperse waves and act as a demarcation line. They sold that technology to Wave Dispersion Technologies Inc. in the 1990s. Bishop took some of his profits and invested it in this new venture.
He was displaying it for the first time at NAVDEX here, which is the maritime section of the IDEX show. There was very little foot traffic at the NAVDEX tent.
He considers the Middle East, with its numerous ports and offshore oil rigs, his primary market. He has teamed up with a UAE company to help him market the product in the region, and conducted the first tests in local waters where a remotely control boat smashed into the wall at 50 miles per hour.
"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.
Following are additional National Defense reports from the 2011 IDEX and NAVDEX exhibitions at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 21-24.
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