Vietnam seizes 125-kilogram haul of trafficked rhino horn encased in plaster

Fifty-five pieces of rhino horn were found hidden inside shipments of plaster at Hanoi International Airport, Vietnam’s state media reported Saturday.

Customs officers broke open plaster molds from 14 shipments to uncover the illegally trafficked horns, which weighed 125 kilograms (275 pounds) in total, according to the Vietnam News Agency.

Vietnam has the world’s largest market for illegal rhino horn, according to the World Wildlife Fund. A single horn can fetch $100,000 in Asian countries such as China and Vietnam, where buyers believe it can cure health problems from hangovers to cancer, and use it as a lifestyle drug. The global market is thought to be worth about $500 million.

The seizure in the Vietnamese capital came after Hanoi police arrested a man accused of running a wildlife trafficking ring on July 23.

That arrest followed the discovery of seven frozen tigers in a car parked in the basement of a Hanoi skyscraper.

Source: CNN, Helen Reagan and Angus Watson, 29 July 2019

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USCBP seizes MSC Gayane with 18 tonnes of cocaine aboard

MSC Gayane

US customs officials seized a container ship financed by JPMorgan this week after authorities found nearly 18 tons of cocaine with an estimated street value of $1.3 billion in the vessel.

The drug bust on the Liberian-flagged MSC Gayane is surprising for several reasons. The sheer quantity of cocaine it was carrying, its links to JPMorgan, its presence in the US, and the recent string of West African drug busts are worth noting.

A container ship financed by JPMorgan was seized by US customs officials this week after authorities found nearly 18 tons of cocaine with an estimated street value of $1.3 billion on the vessel. The drug bust on the MSC Gayane is surprising for several reasons, outlined below.

The roughly 39,500 pounds, or 17.9 metric tons, of cocaine – about the same weight as three African bull elephants – found aboard the MSC Gayane outweighed the total amount of cocaine that passed through West Africa in 2013 and all of the cocaine seized across Africa from 2013 to 2016, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The vast quantity may reflect a supply glut. Global cocaine manufacturing surged by a quarter in 2016 to 1,410 tons, according to the World Drug Report 2018. The production boom is centered in Colombia, where cultivation of the coca plant rose 17% to 171,000 hectares in 2017, according to the UN.

The link between the MSC Gayane and JPMorgan may be the most surprising aspect of the drug bust.

The MSC Gayane is operated by the Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Co., but JPMorgan helped finance MSC’s purchase of the ship. The two reportedly structured the purchase so the ship was owned by client assets in a transportation strategy fund run for JPMorgan’s asset-management arm.

JPMorgan hasn’t yet publicly addressed its association with the vessel, and it has declined to comment to Markets Insider.

The MSC Gayane sailed under the flag of Liberia, a West African country. West Africa is a popular transit route for smugglers between South America and Europe because of its porous borders, weak rule of law, largely unmonitored coastline, and limited infrastructure and resources. The proportion of cocaine seizures in Africa accounted for by West Africa rose to 78% in 2016, “reflecting the rapidly growing importance of West Africa as a transit area,” the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said.

But there appears to be little drug smuggling between West Africa and the US, making the MSC Gayane drug bust highly unusual. Higher street prices and a lower risk of getting caught make Europe a more lucrative and attractive market than the US, the Nigerian drug smuggler Chigbo Umeh told The Guardian in 2015.

While notable, the ship’s flag doesn’t necessarily implicate Liberia.

“A Liberian registered ship is not in itself a link with the West Africa drug economy,” Mark Shaw, the director of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, said in an interview with Markets Insider. “Liberia serves as a flag state for much shipping.”

The drug bust on a Liberian-flagged vessel is the latest in a string of major seizures linked to West African countries this year.

In May 2018, Algerian officials seized more than 1,500 pounds of cocaine on a Liberian-registered container ship that was transporting frozen meat from Brazil, according to the BBC. In February of this year, Cape Verde officials found 21,000 pounds of cocaine, with a street value north of $700 million, on a Panamanian-flagged vessel. A month later, authorities in Guinea-Bissau notched their biggest-ever cocaine bust – and the country’s first in a decade – when they discovered more than 1,700 pounds of the drug hidden in a false bottom of a truck loaded with fish.

“There were doubts whether West Africa was still being used as a major transit route, but these seizures seem to suggest that there is a return,” Shaw said in an interview with Bloomberg in March. “It’s a surprise and it’s very significant.”

Source: The article was written by Theron Mohamed, Market Insider, 11 July 2019

Food tops EU customs’ counterfeit seizure list in 2017

TAXUDCustoms officers seized 31m counterfeit items at the EU’s borders last year worth more than €580m – with food, toys and cigarettes intercepted most frequently.

The total numbers of seized products has declined since 2016, but there is a worrying trend towards a higher proportion of potentially dangerous items such as food, medicines, electrical goods and toys, which accounted for 43 per cent of all detained goods. That’s up from 26 per cent in 2015 and 34 per cent in 2016.

Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of the seizures were for foodstuffs, followed by toys making up 11 per cent, cigarettes at 9 per cent and clothes at 7 per cent of the total.

“The EU’s customs union is on the front line when it comes to protecting citizens from fake, counterfeit and sometimes highly dangerous goods,” said  Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs.

“Stopping imports of counterfeits into the EU also supports jobs and the wider economy as a whole,” he added. Given the increasingly likelihood that the UK will no longer be part of the customs union post-Brexit, it’s worth noting that UK customs seized almost 1.5m goods last year.

Once again, China and Hong Kong were the primary sources for the vast majority of illicit goods, at 73 and 10 per cent, respectively, with China down from 81 per cent in the prior year and Hong Kong up from around 8 per cent. Other countries have emerged as hot spots for particular product categories, however, with Moldova a source of illicit alcohol, the US for other fake beverages and Turkey for counterfeit clothing. India was the top country of origin for fake, and potentially harmful, medicines.

In terms of modes of transport, two thirds (65 per cent) of all detained articles entered the EU via the maritime route, usually in large consignments. This was followed by air traffic which transported 14 per cent, and courier/postal traffic which together accounted for 11 per cent and mainly involved consumer goods ordered online such as shoes, clothing, bags and watches.

The Commission said the downturn in seizures comes after it implemented new measures aimed at protecting intellectual property rights last year, with a particular emphasis on helping smaller companies and startups respond to breaches.

Source: Securingindustry.com, P.Taylor, 2018.09.27

SADC Border posts under the spotlight

GEC

Land borders in the SADC region are critical zones for unlocking economic development, regional value chains and trade. In this light the Global Economic Governance Africa programme is working with the Zimbabwe Trade Forum and the University of Zambia to look at two case studies on the border regions around Beitbridge and Chirundu. The borders, between South Africa and Zimbabwe, and Zimbabwe and Zambia, represent critical links in the North-South Corridor and are vital in both regional development initiatives as well as bilateral ones between the countries.

The seminar, attended by trade experts, policy makers and researchers from South Africa and the region discussed the field research findings of a study at the Beitbridge and Chirundu border posts conducted on behalf of the programme in June 2018.

The following presentation documents should be of interest to all parties concerned with inter regional trade and trade facilitation development initiatives.

It is also worthwhile to visit Tutwa Consulting’s webpage as it explains how the surveys were conducted and provides salient features in relation to each of the border posts concerned which may not necessarily be apparent in the presentation documents as such.

Source: Tutwa Consulting

Nigerian Customs – New IT System flounders

Tin Can Island Nigeria

Nigerian importers operating in all ports in Lagos are facing a tough time in clearing their consignments via the new Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) clearing platform, created to facilitate trade.

The platform

The new IT platform introduced to aid smooth clearance of cargo at the various port terminals has been given the Service sleepless nights before it was further wrecked by windstorm few days ago.

The platform, called Nigeria Customs Integrated System (NCIS)II is an improvement on  earlier automation processes such as Automate System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), ASYCUDA 2.3, ASYCUDA 2.7,ASYCUDA ++, and NICIS I, which is a software specially created to enhance seamless cargo clearance.

Under ASYCUDA, agents could only make five declarations in one hour, but under the NICIS II, they can make up to 18 declarations within an hour.

Also, under NICIS I, customs agents could view what other control agencies such as National Agency For Food And Drug Administration And Control (NAFDAC), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) are doing with their declarations. Similarly, they could actually interact with these agencies under NICIS II.

The new software had earlier been launched at Lilypond Terminal, Port and Terminal Multi-services Limited (PTML) and Tin Can Customs Commands.

Disruption

However its failure has affected cargo clearance at the ports in Lagos, Tin Can Island, and Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) twice this month during a heavy downpour.

The disruption was more pronounced at Lagos Port, which handles the largest imports just two weeks when it migrated to the new platform after its trial at Lilypond, PTML and Tin Can commands.

Challenges

Speaking on the challenges, the Assistant Comptroller of Customs in charge of Customs Processing Centre (CPC), Apapa command, Yahaya Muktar highlighted some of the challenges the command had faced since the NCIS II took off two weeks ago, namely –

  • that the migration from ASYCUDA system to NCIS II platform had caused a little disruption in revenue generation, however he said that the command had caught up on what was initially lost to the mixed up; and
  • that the recent windstorm also contributed to the teething problems experienced at the command.

He explained that the service had not been able to access any work because of the server failure.

For the first week, there was no revenue collected. In the second week, when NCS got acclimatised to it, NCS collected N4.3 billon in a day which has now made up for the three days where no revenue was collected.

At the moment, the Lagos Port had only one scanning machine and that this was not adequate for the backlog of pending containers to be cleared. It was also confirmed that scanners were not working in some port terminals (Tin Can).

Requests for inspection were not being triggered properly resulting inspections not being completed.

Issues are also being experienced with debit notes resulting in importers being billed twice.

Many users were reluctant about using the new IT platform in the light of all the difficulties.

The challenges experienced range from network to various hardware and software technical issues. The NCS’s technical partner, Webb Fontaine is working with the implementation team to ensure normal resumption of customs processing for trade.

Source: New Telegraph Online, original article by Bayo Akomolafe, 30 May 2018

Australia’s last airport beagle, retires

andy-the-beagle-2-e1526128073677.jpgAfter eight years on the job, Australia’s last mainland beagle sniffer dog is hanging up his lead and heading into well-earned retirement.

Andy the beagle, who single-nosedly detected about 2.3 tonnes of biosecurity risk material over a career which took him across Australia, will return to Sydney to live with his original handler.

Andy, who just celebrated his tenth birthday, spent six years working as a detector dog at Sydney International Airport as well as stints at Coolangatta and the Gold Coast before making a final transfer to Adelaide. Most recently he has been working with the Primary Industries and Regions SA on their fruit fly campaign.

Andy’s career numbers after eight years earned him high praise among handlers:

  • 2.3 tonnes of biosecurity risk material confiscated.
  • 718kg of undeclared fruit and fresh vegetables.
  • 432kg of meat including dried organs.
  • 8.9kg of viable seeds and live plants.
  • 128 travellers issued infringement notices as a result of Andy’s keen nose.

Andy’s Adelaide handlers were sad to see him go, saying they would have put their hands up to take him in if he wasn’t heading back to Sydney.

Andy is the last of the beagle sniffer dogs who were once synonymous with airports around Australia. Instead, the next generation will be the larger and far more eager to please labradors.

Adelaide Airport will temporarily only have one sniffer dog, Ari the labrador, but a replacement for Andy is expected by the end of the year. Only one beagle sniffer dog remains on active duty in Australia — Dawson, who works on Norfolk Island.

Source: The Advertiser, 10 May 2018, article by Mitch Mott.

ZIMRA – ASYCUDA failure set to cost in excess of $20M in lost revenue

ZIMRAaaaaaaaZimbabwe’s Deputy Finance and Economic Planning Minister Terrence Mukupe has estimated that the country has lost an estimated $20 million in revenue receipts since ZIMRA’s automated Customs processing system (ASYCUDA World) collapsed in the wake of server failure on 18 December 2017.

During a site visit of Beit Bridge border post earlier this week, it was revealed that ZIMRA collects an estimated $30million per month in Customs duties at its busy land borders. The Revenue Authority has since instituted manual procedures.  Clearing agents are submitting their customs documents accompanied by an undertaking that they will honour their duties within 48 hours. That is, when the ASYCUDA system is finally resuscitated and this is totally unacceptable.

Furthermore, Zimbabwe lies at the heart of the North-South Corridor which handles a substantial volume of transit traffic. The threat of diversion due to lack of proper Customs control and opportunism will also create both a fiscal and security headache. The deputy minister stated that the government was considering abandoning the Ascyuda World Plus system to enhance efficiency and the ease of doing business. “We need to benchmark it with what our neighbours in the region are using”.

It has also been suggested that the ZIMRA board have been complacent in their oversight of the affair. While it is a simple matter to blame systems failure, the lack of management involvement in taking proactive steps to ensuring redundancy of the country’s most crucial revenue collection system has been found wanting.

This calamity undoubtedly signals a huge concern for several other African countries who are likewise supported by UNCTAD’s ASYCUDA software. Many question post implementation support from UNCTAD, leaving countries with the dilemma of having to secure third party vendor and, in some cases, foreign donor support to maintain these systems. The global donor agencies must themselves consider the continued viability of software systems which they sponsor. Scenarios such is this only serve to plunge developing countries into a bigger mess than that from which they came. This is indeed sad for Zimbabwe which was the pioneer of ASYCUDA in sub-Saharan Africa.

This development must surely be a concern not only for governments, but also the regional supply chain industry as a whole. While governments selfishly focus on lost revenue, little thought is given to the dire consequence of lost business and jobs which result in a more permanent outcome than the mere replacement of two computer servers.

Under such conditions, the WCOs slogan for 2018 “A secure business environment for economic development” will not resonate too well for Zimbabwean and other regional traders tomorrow (International Customs Day) affected by the current circumstances. Nonetheless, let this situation serve as a reminder to other administrations that management oversight and budgetary provisioning are paramount to maintaing automated systems – they underpin the supply chain as well as government’s fiscal policy.

Nigeria – President cautions Customs and Port authorities over Dry Port facility

Kaduma Dry Port

On Thursday, 4 January 2018, Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, inaugurated the Kaduna Inland Dry Port and warned the Nigeria Customs Service and port officials against frustrating the effective use of the facilities. Inaugurating the facilities in Kaduna, Buhari said the customs and the port officials must make the facilities work and not to frustrate business, commercial and industrial enterprises with unnecessary bureaucracy.

It remains for Customs and Ports officials to make these facilities work and not to frustrate business, commercial and industrial enterprises with unnecessary bureaucracy and inflicting on them delays and hardships, thereby defeating the object of the whole exercise as has happened in the past.

According to him, the hinterland business community has waited for too long for such facility that has tremendous potentials to ease the way of doing international business for the interior based importers and exporters. He said that the development of Inland Dry Ports was an important factor in the nation’s economic development efforts.

As Ports of origin for exports and ports of destination for imports, the Inland Dry Ports will accelerate the implementation of our economic diversification policy. “The concept of Inland Dry Port has gained widespread importance with the changes in international transportation as a result of the container revolution and the introduction of door-to-door delivery of cargo.

It provides importers and exporters located within the nation’s hinterland, especially industrial and commercial outfits, access to shipping and port services without necessarily visiting the seaports. “It also enables them to process clearance of their import cargo and take delivery of their raw materials and machinery close to their places of business.

President Buhari also said that the Dry Ports would provide exporters the much-needed facilities to process, package, consolidate and forward their exports to their customers all over the world without having to physically be at the seaports. According to him, this replicates the port economy in the various centres where the Dry Ports are located inland thereby generating employment and contributing to the ease of doing business.

He said in addition to the Kaduna Inland Dry Port, six other Inland Dry Ports in Ibadan, Aba, Kano, Jos, Funtua and Maiduguri, which had also been gazetted, were at various stages of completion. He congratulated the Kaduna State Government, the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Nigerian Shippers’ Council as well as the hinterland importers and exporters on the inauguration of the facilities.

The president also commended the initiative of Nigerian Shippers’ Council towards promoting the provision of these modern transport infrastructural facilities. He, however, urged the Concessionaires of the other six Dry Ports to emulate the Concessionaires of the Kaduna Dry Port by accelerating work on theirs so as to ensure speedy completion of the projects.

He said that with the full complement of the seven Dry Ports, congestion at the seaport and traffic gridlock in the port complex would be eliminated.

“Consequently, the cost of transportation and cost of doing business will be reduced,’’ he said. He lauded the efforts of the Kaduna state government for facilitating the establishment of Kaduna Inland Dry Port.

According to him, the provision of access roads and other utilities to the Dry Port by Kaduna State Government is worthy of emulation by the other Dry Ports host State Governments.

He urged relevant stakeholders across the public and private sectors, particularly Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Shipping Companies and Agencies, Seaport Terminal Operators, Clearing and Forwarding Agents, Road Haulers and importers and exporters to utilize the facility optimally. Source: article originally published by Vanguard (Nigeria), 4 January 2018

U.S. Border Searches of Electronic Devices

Mobility concept

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Index, and National File Tracking System of Records, implemented new or modified uses of information maintained on individuals as they pass through the immigration process. The new requirements became effective as of 18 October 2017.

The new regulation updates the categories of individuals covered, to include: individuals acting as legal guardians or designated representatives in immigration proceedings involving an individual who is physically or developmentally disabled or severely mentally impaired (when authorized); Civil Surgeons who conduct and certify medical examinations for immigration benefits; law enforcement officers who certify a benefit requestor’s cooperation in the investigation or prosecution of a criminal activity; a­nd interpreters.

It also expands the categories of records to include: country of nationality; country of residence; the USCIS Online Account Number; social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results; and EOIR and BIA proceedings information.
The new regulation also includes updated record source categories to include: publicly available information obtained from the internet; public records; public institutions; interviewees; commercial data providers; and information obtained and disclosed pursuant to information sharing agreements.

With this latest expansion of data allowed to be collected, it begs the question: How does one protect sensitive data housed on electronic devices? In addition to inspecting all persons, baggage, and merchandise at a port-of-entry, CBP does indeed have the authority to search electronic devices too. CBP’s stance is that consent is not required for such a search. This position is supported by the U.S. Supreme Court, which has determined that such border searches constitute reasonable searches; and therefore, do not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment.

Despite this broad license afforded CBP at the port-of-entry, CBP’s authority is checked somewhat in that such searches do not include information located solely in the cloud. Information subject to search must be physically stored on the device in order to be accessible at the port-of-entry. Additionally, examination of attorney-client privileged communications contained on electronic devices first requires CBP’s consultation with Associate/Assistant Chief Counsel of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

So what may one do to prevent seizure of an electronic device or avoid disclosure of confidential data to CBP during a border search? The New York and Canadian Bar Associations have compiled the following recommendations:

  • Consider carrying a temporary or travel laptop cleansed of sensitive local documents and information. Access data through a VPN connection or cloud-based warehousing.
  • Consider carrying temporary mobile devices stripped of contacts and other confidential information. Have calls forwarded from your office number to the unpublished mobile number when traveling.
  • Back up data and shut down your electronic device well before reaching the inspection area to eliminate access to Random Access Memory.
  • Use an alternate account to hold sensitive information. Apply strong encryption and complex passwords.
  • Partition and encrypt the hard drive.
  • Protect the data port.
  • Clean your electronic device(s) following return.
  • Wipe smartphones remotely.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Source: article originally published by Mondaq.com, author: Cory, J (2017:11)

Cigarette Smuggling in Logs

Shenzhen Customs – Nab Woman with 102 iPhones Taped to Her Body

A Hong Kong woman was caught late last month crossing the border into the mainland with an impressive 102 iPhones taped to her body — apparently, Shenzhen customs officers became a wee bit suspicious after noticing the woman’s unusually bulky clothing and strange stride.

They ordered her to take a walk through the X-ray scanner, which promptly sounded its alarm. A check revealed not only more than a hundred iPhones, but also 15 Tissot watches that were taped around her chest. In total, the smuggled items weighed about 20 kilograms, according to an Oriental Daily.

Record 7,2 Tonne Ivory Seizure in Hong Kong

Customs officers in Hong Kong seized 7.2 tons of ivory from a shipping container arriving from Malaysia on July 4.

The seizure was made at the Kwai Chung Customhouse Cargo Examination Compound, and once its weight is confirmed, the haul could become a record seizure – the largest ever recorded in the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) database – narrowly surpassing the 7.138 tons seized in Singapore in 2002.

According to a government media release, the consignment was declared as “frozen fish” and the tusks hidden beneath frozen fish cartons.

The massive seizure underlines both Malaysia’s and Hong Kong’s role as key smuggling hubs in the international trafficking of ivory. Three people – a man and two women were arrested in connection with the seizure.

The ETIS database is managed by the NGO TRAFFIC on behalf of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It contains tens of thousands of elephant-product seizure records dating back to 1989.

Under CITES guidelines, any seizure of 500kg or more is considered indicative of the involvement of organized crime. All parties making such large-scale seizures are obliged to examine them forensically as part of follow-up investigations.

Dr Yannick Kuehl, TRAFFIC’s Regional Director for East Asia, said, “No doubt Hong Kong’s geographic location coupled with the currently relatively lenient penalties in place for anyone convicted of wildlife crime are reasons behind the shipment coming through the port. The case for increasing penalties has never been stronger.”

Hong Kong is currently reviewing its legislation regarding wildlife crime and the Legislative Council is currently debating plans to phase out the territory’s domestic ivory trade over the next five years, a timescale that is out of step with neighboring mainland China which intends to end its domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017. Source: Maritime Executive/TRAFFIC/HongKong Government – Photo’s: Alex Hofford/WildAid.

NZ Customs -will need reasonable cause to search laptops and phones at the border

airport

Currently, New Zealand Customs can stop anyone at the border and demand access to any of their digital devices.

A new law means Customs will no longer be able to demand that people entering the country hand over the passwords to their devices without reasonable cause.

Currently, Customs can stop anyone at the border and demand access to any of their digital devices.

But ACT leader and sole-MP David Seymour has secured a change to this in the new Customs and Excise Bill, which is soon to have its second reading. Officers will need to have “reasonable suspicion” or belief of offending. There will be no appeal process.

Figures obtained by TVNZ showed that more than 1300 have been digitally “strip searched” since 2013.

New Zealanders were the most commonly searched, followed by people from China.

“Unrestricted power to demand people’s passwords and search their files is an affront to civil liberties, and it will inevitably lead to violations of privacy,” Seymour said.

“Customs practices are simply out of touch with modern reality. In the past, people would only pack a suitcase with a few paper documents, but younger generations often travel with all their personal files. Meanwhile, if a genuine criminal is determined to keep incriminating files, they’ll do it on cloud storage, not on their personal device.

“This will prevent countless New Zealanders and visitors from facing intrusive and unjustified searches.

“Customs’ powers to examine and access electronic devices will be restricted through a two-stage search threshold. This means that Customs will only be able to search a device if they have a reasonable suspicion or belief of offending under the Act,” Customs Minister Nicky Wagner said.

“We have addressed concerns raised by the public during consultation around Customs’ powers to search e-devices at the border.

“The new search powers strike a balance between protecting privacy and ensuring that Customs can continue to protect our borders.” Source: Stuff (New Zealand)

New Technology to Detect Illegal Nuclear Cargo at Ports and Borders

smoother1

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have developed new glass scintillators to detect suspicious nuclear material at borders and ports. The new scintillators are cheap, effective and more stable than the current scintillators in use.

Scintillators, which produce bright light when struck by radiation, are used extensively by the US Government in homeland security as radiation detectors. By observing the amount of light produced, and how quickly, the source of radiation may be identified.

Dr Patrick Feng, who led the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation project, began to develop new types of scintillators in 2010, in order to “strengthen national security by improving the cost-to-performance ratio of radiation detectors”. To improve this ratio, he had to “bridge the gap” between effective scintillators made from expensive materials, and affordable but far less effective models.

Although there are many types of scintillator available, the best-performing scintillators are made from trans-stilbene. This crystallised form of a molecule allows border security tell the difference between gamma rays, which appear naturally everywhere, and neutrons, which are often associated with threatening materials such as plutonium and uranium, by producing a bright light in response.

The gold standard scintillator material for the past 40 years has been the crystalline form of a molecule called trans-stilbene, despite intense research to develop a replacement. Trans-stilbene is highly effective at differentiating between two types of radiation: gamma rays, which are ubiquitous in the environment, and neutrons, which emanate almost exclusively from controlled threat materials such as plutonium or uranium. Trans-stilbene is very sensitive to these materials, producing a bright light in response to their presence.

These crystals, however, are too fragile and expensive (around S1,000 per cubic inch)  to be used in the field, and instead, security personnel will tend to use plastic-based scintillators, which can be moulded into large shapes but are ineffective at differentiating between different types of radiation or detecting weak sources.

In order to find a good alternative, Dr Feng and his team at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, CA, began to experiment with organic glass components, which are capable of discriminating between different types of radiation.

Tests demonstrated that scintillators made with organic glass performed even better than the trans-stilbene scintillators in radiation detection tests.

The researchers were able to improve their design further when they drew a parallel between the behaviour of LEDs, which produce light when electrical energy is applied, and scintillators, which respond to radioactive sources. They found that adding fluorine, which is used in some LEDs, into the scintillator components helped stabilise them. This allowed for the organic glass to be melted down and cast into large blocks without becoming cloudy or crystallising upon cooling.

The result was an indefinitely stable scintillator able to differentiate between non-threatening radioactive sources, such as those used in medical treatments, and those which could constitute threats. The organic glass components are cheap and easy to manufacture, and do not degrade over time.

Next, the researchers will cast a large prototype for field testing, and hopefully demonstrate that the scintillator can withstand environmental wear and tear, for instance, due to the humidity of ports where checks are carried out. They also hope to adjust the scintillator to distinguish between safe sources of gamma radiation, and those which could be used to make “dirty bombs”. Source: Sandia Laboratory

WCO News – June 2017 Edition

WCO News June 2017

The WCO has published the 83rd edition of WCO News, the Organization’s flagship magazine aimed at the Customs community, which provides a selection of informative articles that touch the international Customs and trade landscape.

This edition features a special dossier on the use of collective action to fight corruption and how it can apply in the Customs context, and includes both country-specific experiences as well as the views of Customs’ partners.

It also puts a spotlight, in its focus section, on the WCO Mercator Programme, the capacity building programme designed by the WCO to assist governments in implementing the Customs trade facilitation measures outlined in the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation.

Other highlights include articles on the implementation of a new standard to ensure that men and women receive equal pay for equal work, enhanced control of light aviation in West Africa, the use of basic mathematics to fight corruption and bad practices, and much more.

The magazine is published and distributed free of charge three times a year, in February, June and October, and is available online or in paper format. Source: WCO