A new scanning device purchased by the Cayman Islands Customs department will be able to perform nonintrusive checks of cars and small watercraft, as well as cargo entering the country through the port.
Smiths Detection company announced last week it had been awarded a contract to supply the Cayman Islands with a cargo inspection X-ray scanner system.
The entire purchase for the contract was more than US$3 million, Assistant Customs Collector Jeff Jackson said.
That includes not only the larger mobile scanner, but three standard scanners the customs office will place at the airport post office, the port cargo distribution centre and at the customs warehouse.
The large, mobile cargo scanner uses a colour-coded system to distinguish between organic and inorganic materials.
That means if drug transporters are hiding ganja packets amongst a shipment of home improvement products, for example, it won’t escape the notice of local customs agents.
The mobile device will be used mainly at the port once appropriate modifications are made to accommodate the scanner.
The device, the HCVM, will “help reduce the need for manual inspections by showing customs officials that goods in containers match those declared on the [shipment] manifest”, the company stated.
The mobile scanner can operate on generator power or can use available power sources in the area where it’s being used.
It is attached to a mobile trailer that can be hauled by a truck, Mr. Jackson said. This means the scanner can be positioned over a lane of traffic where cars can drive under it, or even driven along the road to scan stationary vehicles.
“We hope we can use it to assist police in vehicle searches,” Mr. Jackson said. “It will not only enhance our capacity to help protect our Islands’ integrity from imported threats, but also secure government’s revenue and facilitate legitimate trade.
Earlier this year, the customs service obtained the services of Etamic International Ltd to assist in consulting and initially managing the X-ray scanner project.
Etamic will essentially guide customs officials through buying, installing, commissioning, and operating the X-ray scanner system.
Customs collector Carlon Powery announced the planned acquisition of the scanner more than two years ago and officials had once hoped to have the large container scanner operational by the end of 2010.
Previous statements from government officials indicated that customs is “spot checking” about 5 per cent of the cargo containers that come into the port.
The new, large scanner will be able to handle between 75 per cent and 90 per cent of the containers that come through the port, customs officials said.
“Although no negative reaction is expected in the trade community, we will make every effort to limit extra clearance time,” Mr. Jackson said.
Government planned on revenues of some $2.8 million in revenues to be collected as a result of scanning operations within the last budget year. However, the X-ray scanner is not expected to be delivered to the Islands and up and running until December or January.