1. News
  2. /
  3. Transportation

Port Tampa Bay will test new security scanners. No stopping to empty pockets.

Travelers will briefly see the new system this spring. A Georgia-based company is testing how well they work.
A rendering shows how technology developed by Liberty Defense Holdings can scan people for metallic and non-metallic weapons. The new system will be tested at Port Tampa Bay in the spring of 2020. [Courtesy of Liberty Defense Holdings]
A rendering shows how technology developed by Liberty Defense Holdings can scan people for metallic and non-metallic weapons. The new system will be tested at Port Tampa Bay in the spring of 2020. [Courtesy of Liberty Defense Holdings]
Published Oct. 28, 2019

TAMPA — Cruise passengers traveling out of Port Tampa Bay next spring could play a role in the testing of a new weapons detection system designed to improve safety in public places.

Liberty Defense Holdings created HEXWAVE, which uses low-power, radar imaging and artificial intelligence to detect and identify weapons. The company has been developing the technology since 2018 and is ready to test it in 11 locations nationwide, CEO Bill Riker said.

Similar to a metal detector, the system requires people to walk through portals one at a time as they are scanned.

But unlike their more common counterpart, these scanners can detect both metal and non-metal items and use artificial intelligence to identify almost instantly what the item is and where it’s located. People can walk through as they are, without pausing to empty their pockets or take off their shoes.

“You’re just moving steadily through and it’s happening in real time,” Riker said.

The scanners, which are on wheels, can be used inside or outside and easily moved as long as there is a power outlet nearby.

They’ll be placed at the port for about a week this spring, Riker said. The new technology will be in addition to security the port already has in place.

“We’re in a test phase at this point, so we’re really trying to see how it performs for a select group of threat items and we’re also trying to get feedback from law enforcement and security professionals on it,” Riker said.

In 2018, the port hit 1 million passengers for the first time in its history, with four cruise lines — Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Norwegian — offering 4- to 14-day trips to Mexico, Cuba and the western and southern Caribbean.

Construction is underway for $10 million worth of renovations to three of its cruise ship terminals, including new escalators and interior improvements in Cruise Terminals 2 and 6. Cruise Terminal 2 also will get renovations so that it will no longer be limited to so-called “closed-loop” cruises that begin and end in Tampa with no passengers boarding the ship from foreign ports.

Port Tampa Bay President and CEO Paul Anderson said part of HEXWAVE’s appeal is its ability to scan a high number of people in a short period of time.

“It provides a new way to strengthen our security posture and ensure the safety of all passengers without slowing down the flow of visitor traffic," Anderson said in a statement. "We are looking forward to working with Liberty Defense to test this new technology that will help us to stay ahead of potential threats.”


  1. Residents and commuters are complaining about heavy traffic ever since the Florida Department of Transportation closed both northbound lanes on Nebraska Avenue just south of Hillsborough Avenue (U.S. 92) in Tampa on Jan. 6, to install new drainage pipes under Nebraska Avenue between Giddens Avenue and Hillsborough Avenue. [Florida Department of Transportation]
    Dr. Delay explores the latest backups aggravating Seminole Heights residents and commuters.
  2. Brandi Dobbins, 28, talks with bus operator Paul Robinson while boarding the PSTA bus at Grand Central Station in St. Petersburg, Florida on Thursday, January 23, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Elected officials see data as key to dealing with the problem, but systems for analyzing it are falling short.
  3. A look at the construction on the Tierra Verde bridge project which is the bridge between Isla Del Sol and Tierra Verde islands on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020 in St. Petersburg. The project began in December 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in summer of 2021. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Dr. Delay takes a deep dive into the construction process for the $56.3 million State Road 679 and Bayway Bridge project .
  4. The Toyota recall covers certain 2011-2019 Corollas, the 2011 to 2013 Matrix, the 2012 through 2018 Avalon and the 2013 to 2018 Avalon Hybrid in the U.S. Pictured is a 2013 Avalon Limited.
    The problem could affect as many as 12.3 million vehicles in the U.S. made by six companies.
  5. The area will be closed to drivers headed north and south from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. through Friday.
  6. A scooter rider navigates Platt Street on Friday morning during the calm before the storm — successive weekends of downtown Gasparilla parades. Scooter companies like Jump warn users it’s a violation of their rental agreement to operate one while under the influence. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    One company decided to pull its scooters Jan. 25 ‘out of an abundance of caution for riders and those participating in Gasparilla.’
  7. Delta Air Lines said Friday it will launch five new round-trip routes a day between Tampa and Miami starting May 4. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) [MARK LENNIHAN  |  AP]
    Delta says the daily nonstop Miami service will create new connections for Tampa travelers to fly to Latin America and other international destinations.
  8. Tampa International Airport is building a new bike and pedestrian path that will loop around its under-construction SkyCenter office and hotel development and cell phone waiting lot. Eventually, that path is planned to connect to a network of regional biking and pedestrian trails. [Tampa International Airport]
    Tampa’s airport is the nation’s first to receive the designation from the nonprofit League of American Bicyclists. It was also the first to apply.
  9. In this photo from video, Delta Air Lines Flight 89 to Shanghai, China, dumps fuel over Los Angeles before returning to Los Angeles International Airport for an emergency landing Tuesday. Fuel dumped by the airliner making an emergency return Tuesday to the airport due to an engine problem fell onto three schools, causing minor irritation to 40 children and adults, officials said. (AP Photo/Matt Hartman) [MATT HARTMAN  |  AP]
    The fuel, described by fire officials as a vapor, caused minor skin and lung irritation to 56 children and adults but nobody was taken to the hospital.
  10. Draped against the St. Petersburg skyline on Tuesday evening on January 14, 2020, the Bella Vita is visible as it docks in Port St. Pete. The yacht is nearly 250 feet long and costs about $650,000 to charter for a week in the winter, according to broker Moran Yacht and Ship. It can accommodate 12 passengers between its six staterooms and six decks, and a staff of 22. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
    Meet the Bella Vita, a yacht almost too luxurious to believe.