US Customs – Testing new way to decrease border dwell-time for travellers

In an ongoing effort to reduce wait times at the International Bridge, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations will pilot a project to bring vehicles to the inspection booths in less time.
The stop signs will be placed in all three upper lanes and will shorten the “pull up” distance to the booth. This allows vehicles to queue up quicker. “Efficacy in movement is paramount to this project’s success. We are always trying to improve the flow of legitimate traffic while enforcing the laws of the United States,” said Patrick Wilson, CBP Sault Ste. Marie Assistant Port Director.

The Sault Ste Marie port of entry has a unique design that separates commercial traffic from car traffic, creating an upper and lower plaza. The focus of this project will be on the upper plaza only and will not affect the flow of traffic on the lower plaza.

Stop signs will be placed in all three upper lanes beginning Friday, April 20. The stop signs will shorten the “pull up” distance to the booth. This allows vehicles to queue up quicker. The stop signs will be placed near Radio Frequency Identification readers where the traveling public can display their Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative RFID-enabled document to pre-populate the officer’s computer screens.

CBP is testing the theory that they can process more travelers each hour by reducing the amount of time it takes each vehicle to get to the inspecting officer. This pilot project will incorporate a two-stop sign process. Upon entering the upper plaza, vehicles will be required to stop at the first existing stop sign. As the vehicle ahead clears, travelers will move to the next new stop sign and present their ID to the RFID reader. Once the vehicle at the inspection booth clears, travelers will proceed to the inspection booth.

Vehicles with trailers/campers are asked to use the lower plaza lanes so as not to impede the functionality of installed equipment. LED signage will be adjusted to notify motorists of this change.

CBP officers will direct traffic periodically during this project to help educate travelers on this new process. “We continue to look for efficiencies in our processes to improve the border crossing experience. If we can save a couple of seconds of inspection time per vehicle, the time savings should reduce each traveler’s wait,” said Assistant Port Director Wilson. Source:


US launches National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano unveiled  the Obama administration’s National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland yesterday (25 January). The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is committed to facilitating legitimate trade and travel, while preventing terrorists from exploiting supply chains, protecting transportation systems from attacks and disruptions, and increasing the resilience of global supply chains.

The National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security outlines clear goals to promote the efficient and secure movement of goods and foster a resilient supply chain system. It also provides guidance for the U.S. government and crucial domestic, international, public and private stakeholders who share a common interest in the security and resiliency of the global supply chain. (Why call it a “National” strategy when it impacts the international community?)

DHS works with leaders from global shipping companies and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on developing preventative measures, including terrorism awareness training for employees and vetting personnel with access to cargo. Fulfilling a requirement of the 9/11 Act, 100 percent of high risk cargo on international flights bound for the United States is screened.

In addition, through the Container Security Initiative currently operational in over 50 foreign seaports in Europe, North, Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, and throughout Asia, U.S. Customs and Border Protection helps our partner countries identify and screen U.S.-bound maritime containers before they reach the U.S..

Following the release of the National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security, DHS and the Department of State will lead a six month engagement period with the international community and industry stakeholders to solicit feedback and specific recommendations on how to implement the Strategy in a cost-effective and collaborative manner. You can find the Strategy by clicking here! Also, for a summary of the strategy in presentation format, click here! We wait with bated breath to find out whats going to be new here, besides more onerous reporting requirements!

Source: US Press Secretary and The White House Blog.

European Union bans US X-Ray Body Scanners

The European Union on Monday prohibited the use of X-ray body scanners in European airports, parting ways with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, which has deployed hundreds of the scanners as a way to screen millions of airline passengers for explosives hidden under clothing. The EC, which enforces common policies of the EU’s 27 member countries, adopted the rule in order not to risk jeopardizing citizens’ health and safety.

As a ProPublica/PBS NewsHour investigation detailed earlier this month, X-ray body scanners use ionizing radiation, a form of energy that has been shown to damage DNA and cause cancer. Although the amount of radiation is extremely low, equivalent to the radiation a person would receive in a few minutes of flying, several research studies have concluded that a small number of cancer cases would result from scanning hundreds of millions of passengers a year.

European countries will be allowed to use an alternative body scanner, on that relies on radio frequency waves, which have not been linked to cancer. The TSA has also deployed hundreds of those machines – known as millimeter-wave scanners – in U.S. airports. But unlike Europe, it has decided to deploy both types of scanners.

The TSA would not comment specifically on the EU’s decision. But in a statement, a TSA spokesman said, “As one of our many layers of security, TSA deploys the most advanced technology available to provide the best opportunity to detect dangerous items, such as explosives. We rigorously test our technology to ensure it meets our high detection and safety standards before it is placed in airports,” he continued. “Since January 2010, advanced imaging technology has detected more than 300 dangerous or illegal items on passengers in U.S. airports nationwide.”

Body scanners have been controversial in the United States since they were first deployed in prisons in the late 1990s and then in airports for tests after 9/11. Most of the controversy has focused on privacy because the machines can produce graphic images. But the manufacturers have since installed privacy filters.

As the TSA began deploying hundreds of body scanners after the failed underwear bombing on Christmas Day 2009, several scientists began to raise concerns about the health risks of the X-ray scanner, noting that even low levels of radiation would increase the risk of cancer.

As part of our investigation, ProPublica surveyed foreign countries’ security policies and found that only a few nations used the X-ray scanner. The United Kingdom uses them but only for secondary screening, such as when a passenger triggers the metal detector or raises suspicion.

Under the new European Commission policy, the U.K. will be allowed to complete a trial of the X-ray scanners but not to deploy them on a permanent basis when the trial ends.These new rules ensure that where this technology is used it will be covered by EU-wide standards on detection capability as well as strict safeguards to protect health and fundamental rights.

Five-hundred body scanners, split about evenly between the two technologies, are deployed in U.S. airports. The X-ray scanner, or backscatter, which looks like two large blue boxes, is used at major airports, including Los Angeles International Airport, John F. Kennedy in New York and Chicago’s O’Hare. The millimeter-wave scanner, which looks like a round glass booth, is used in San Francisco, Atlanta and Dallas.

Within three years, the TSA plans to deploy 1,800 backscatter and millimeter-wave scanners, covering nearly every domestic airport security lane. The TSA has not yet released details on the exact breakdown. Source: ProPublica

SADC Free Trade Area requires Integrated Border Management

At least two articles have surfaced within the last week calling for greater urgency towards the development of free trade areas in Africa. How much time, money and effort seem to be expended in futile trade discussions that – to the man in the street – are meaningless. One such article, appearing in the Freight & Trade Weekly (FTW) relates to a speech delivered by the South African Transport Minister imploring SADC members to fast-track an integrated border management framework to enable ‘free flow’ of trade in the region. Before pressurizing foreign countries to embrace such change it should at least be properly considered at home. For more than 15 years, South Africa has failed to implement any meaningful integrated border management of its own. Forget about the so-called economic protectionism amongst individual African countries. We have – on our own soil –an inter-departmental ‘protectionism’ which cares little for free flow of legitimate goods. Admittedly there are moves to ‘integrate’ certain frontline functions such as customs border control and immigration. This, however, still does not mitigate interference from other government agencies in tampering with ‘legitimate trade’. Each department seems hell-bent on enforcing its respective mandate regardless of consequential overlaps in activity, oblivious to the detrimental effect this has for legitimate trade. So what is ‘integrated border management’? In the context of a sovereign state it could imply one of two things:

  • A cooperative inter-departmental approach where ‘individual’ government departments perform combined interventions (according to their respective legal mandate) on people, cargo and conveyances according to a structured operational procedure and workflow; or
  • A Border Management Agency (being a single government entity) comprising the capacity to effect all immigration, customs and border control/security functions at ports of entry and exit.

Secondly, integrated border management at external borders can be further extended to include a streamlined import/export or entry/exit process to facilitate the movement of legitimate travellers, goods, and conveyances in a single transaction. This is described as a ‘one stop border’. A critical success factor here is the ability of two country’s border authorities to be able to co-locate with one another and affect a common clearance/passenger movement process. Theoretically these things are all easy to understand, but a whole lot more difficult to implement – more about this another time.

Therefore, before a successful SADC FTA can ever hope to materialise, the concept of proper risk-based inter-departmental control must be embedded and administered within a home country before attempting a bi- or multilateral initiative. The article “SADC must implement integrated border management” can be found on page 17, of the 28 October 2011 issue of the FTW.

Checkpoint of the Future

Eye scanners and futuristic security tunnels may soon be standard issue in airports as the airline industry seeks to bump up safety while reducing the hassles of boarding a plane that deter some people from flying. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) unveiled a mock-up  in Singapore of what it dubbed the “Checkpoint of the Future”, where passengers separated by security risk would walk through one of three high-tech, 6.1m-long tunnels that can quickly scan shoes and carry-on luggage and check for liquids and explosives. Passengers should be able to get from curb to boarding gate with dignity,  without stopping, stripping or unpacking, and certainly not groping.

The main concepts of the Checkpoint are (1) strengthened security by focusing resources where risk is greatest, (2) supporting this risk-based approach by integrating passenger information into the checkpoint process, and (3) maximizing throughput for the vast majority of travelers who are deemed to be low risk with no compromise on security levels.

How does it work?

The Checkpoint of the Future ends the one-size-fits-all concept for security. Passengers approaching the checkpoint will be directed to one of three lanes: ‘known traveler’, Checkpoint of the futurenormal’, and ‘enhanced security’. The determination will be based on a biometric identifier in the passport or other travel document that triggers the results of a risk assessment conducted by government before the passenger arrives at the airport.  The three security lanes will have technology to check passengers according to risk. “Known travelers” who have registered and completed background checks with government authorities will have expedited access. “Normal screening” would be for the majority of travelers. And those passengers for whom less information is available, who are randomly selected or who are deemed to be an “Elevated risk” would have an additional level of screening.

Screening technology is being developed that will allow passengers to walk through the checkpoint without having to remove clothes or unpack their belongings. Moreover, it is envisioned that the security process could be combined with outbound customs and immigration procedures, further streamlining the passenger experience. Source: IATA.

Related topic:

RFID – its application at the Customs border

Sample NEXUS card

Sample NEXUS card

The opening of “Ready Lanes” to speed border crossings from Canada and Mexico into the U.S. is significant, less because RFID is used in border crossing identity cards than it is for the fact that RFID is finally being used.

On April 11, 2011, “Ready Lanes” were instituted on the Canadian and Mexican borders to expedite re-entry to the U.S. for those with the RFID enabled enhanced driver’s license, NEXUS card, new permanent resident card and U.S. passport card. Why is this significant?Because it’s one thing to issue a host of different RFID-enabled identity cards; it’s another thing to actually use them for their intended purpose.

One case in point. In accordance with Presidential Directive HSPD-12 issued by president George W. Bush, Personal Identity Verification (PIV) contactless smart cards have been issued to all U.S. government employees and contractors who must enter government buildings. The abstract of HSPD-12 states: There are wide variations in the quality and security of identification used to gain access to secure facilities where there is potential for terrorist attacks. In order to eliminate these variations, U.S. policy is to enhance security, increase Government efficiency, reduce identity fraud, and protect personal privacy by establishing a mandatory, Government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification issued by the Federal Government to its employees and contractors (including contractor employees). This directive mandates a federal standard for secure and reliable forms of identification.

Therefore, what is significant about the Ready Lanes is that the RFID feature of these identity documents is actually being used. And, while the NEXUS card has been used for commercial traffic for a number of years and some of the other identity cards have been issued for a year or more, the opening of Ready Lanes is the first tangible benefit of these cards to the average person.

But the Ready Lanes are significant for more than that. They show not only how these cards can speed up cross-border traffic, but also how RFID should be used to speed cargo that arrives by land, sea and air. RFID container seals and RFID manifest tags with customs information, coupled with existing electronically communicated manifests and documents, could provide a provenance for the authenticity and security of incoming containers at international ports and terminals. So-called Green Lanes for pre-cleared cargo containers would be the equivalent of the Ready Lanes. That would allow the limited number of inspectors to focus their attention on containers from less trustworthy sources to enhance security and safety. Green Lanes would also save shippers and consignees money by shortening the time it takes for goods, particularly perishable goods, to move from the transportation hub to their destinations.

The lesson that should be taken from the opening of the Ready Lanes on the U.S. border, therefore, is that the use of RFID should not be our focus. Rather, it should be on the usefulness of RFID. Or, to put it in a somewhat less confusing way, it’s one thing to deploy RFID; it’s another thing to actually employ it.

Original article published by Bert Moore.

Increase in Passenger Allowances

SARS Customs Duty-free allowances for travellers is increased from R3 000 to R5 000 and for crew members from 500 to R700. The flat rate allowance for travellers is increased from R12 000 to R20 000, whilst that of crew members will remain the same at R2 000. These amendments will be published in the Government Gazette and come into effect on 1 March 2011.  Current forms DA331, DA305, DA307, DA308, and DA341 will be replaced by a ‘new’ DA331. Refer to SARS Modernisation web page for full details –