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Observations

Observations

Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American

The Super Bowls Super Security Boat

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super bowl

Moose on patrol. Image courtesy of the New Jersey State Police.

The Super Bowl poses mammoth security challenges in any given year. This year’s championship game—the first since last April’s Boston Marathon bombing—raises the stakes by bringing the game, which the Department of Homeland Security designates a “Level One” national security event, to New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium. Not only will kickoff take place just miles from the World Trade Center site, but the majority of the festivities leading up to the event are taking place across the Hudson River in Manhattan. Dozens of law enforcement agencies and antiterrorism units have fanned out to cover the region via land, air and sea.

Maritime defense is particularly important for Super Bowl XLVIII. Both the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos are staying in hotels along the Hudson River, the same body of water that many fans will traverse via automobile, bus and train on game day. Which makes it the perfect opportunity for the New Jersey State Police, the agency coordinating security efforts among dozens of federal, state and local agencies, to show off a $1 million, state-of-the-art patrol and transport vessel purchased with Federal Emergency Management Agency funds.

The state police this week have deployed one of their two Moose boats to transport security personnel, including its special operations teams, along the Hudson. The Moose—so called because it’s made by Petaluma, Calif.-based Moose Boats Inc.—is a 13.4-meter diesel water jet-propelled aluminum catamaran that can reach about 80 kilometers per hour and stop “on a dime” (within a length and a half of itself), says Sergeant First Class Ken Ryan, a 17-year veteran of the force who’s spent the past eight with the Marine Services Bureau.

The water-jet engine features an electronic control system that enables the boat to hold its position without an anchor or quickly swivel 360 degrees from a fixed position. If there’s an emergency, “you can actually push a button, walk away from the helm, and the boat’s going to hold position while troopers are in the back of the boat pulling somebody out of the water,” Ryan says.

The Moose can also operate in water as shallow as a half meter. That’s significant, especially for a boat of that size, because the state police could basically run the Moose up onto a beach for loading or offloading personnel in a hurry, Ryan says. The boat is also equipped with an infrared camera that gives the crew night vision on a monitor inside the vessel’s cabin and a hydraulically driven fire fighting system that sucks water from below and propels it through nozzles on the deck.

The state police, whose Super Bowl security detail includes more than 500 troopers, bought their first Moose in January 2012 using a FEMA Port Security Grant and added a second, 11.3-meter catamaran in November. A third Moose boat will join the fleet in March, followed by a fourth in October. The New York Police Department and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey likewise have Moose boats, although it’s unclear whether theirs will be deployed for Super Bowl security.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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