Port expects scanners in operation this month
Mobile scanners are expected to be in operation at the ports of Point Lisas and Port of Spain by the end of September.
Four mobile scanners were donated to Trinidad and Tobago by the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency in 2014 and Comptroller of Customs, Glenn Singh said on Tuesday that the final contracts were expected to be received from the agents by yesterday or today.
He said once the final payment is made to the dealers, their representative will be in Trinidad within days to assess the scanners. He was speaking during a visit to the Point Lisas port by members of Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on National Security. Committee member, Prakash Ramadhar expressed disappointment that the scanners were not yet in operation, pointing out that the instruction to have scanners installed was given since 2010.
Singh told the committee that 15 percent of all full containers imported through the port are sent to the Container Examination Station (CES) to be checked.
In response to further questioning, he said that containers may also be examined when they are being unloaded at the premises of the consignees so that alltogether 48 percent of imported cargo is examined by the Customs and Excise Division.
However, officials of the Point Lisas port said that 15 percent is high because at US ports less than five percent of containers are examined.
However, committee Chairman Fitzgerald Hinds responded that those were ports which are equipped with scanners and it is the containers which are red flagged after passing through the scanners which are sent for examination.
Explaining the reason for the visit by the committee, Hinds said that guns are entering Trinidad and Tobago and the intelligence services have indicated that the legitimate ports are being used to bring contraband into the country.
Two mobile scanners, essentially a vehicle with the scanner mounted on it, will be allocated to the port of Port-of- Spain while two will be allocated to the port of Point Lisas.
During a tour of the Point Lisas port and Customs areas at the North and South Terminals of the Piarco Airport, Hinds, expressed the hope that when the scanners are installed, the Customs and Excise Department would be able to increase the extent of scanning of goods imported into the country. However, a senior official familiar with the situation said he could not give any commitment that this would happen, pointing out that the mobile scanner is something new to the department and they would have to see it in operation and understand what challenges are involved before commenting on whether there would be an increase in the extent of scanning. He said once the units are put into operation the Customs Department might make a determination that the two mobile units are able to provide the hundred percent scanning suggested by Hinds or that more units would be required to do so.
The official said that officers of the US Customs and Border Protection Agency will work along with the local Customs officers in operating the units.