Black Immigrant Daily News
Minister of Finance Colm Imbert. File photo
Saying that TT sits on a “drug trafficking corridor,” the Finance Minister has identified several measures geared at improving the security of the nation’s borders.
Colm Imbert announced that the Customs and Excise Division (CED) intends to acquire four mobile scanners for its fleet.
Imbert said the drug trafficking corridor links drug-producing regions in Central and South America with the large drug-consuming markets in North America and beyond.
This traffic, he added, has generated high levels of violence and gang-related crime in the country.
“As we mobilise to counter these nefarious activities, it is imperative that the division upgrade its fleet of mobile scanners to provide enhanced non-intrusive inspection (NII) coverage of imports and exports,” Imbert said.
“To achieve this, an International Tender Notice was issued, inviting tenders for the supply, delivery, installation, and commissioning of four large scale NII high/medium mobile X-ray systems.”
Imbert spoke on Tuesday afternoon at the opening ceremony of CED’s new building and jetty at King’s Wharf, San Fernando.
He gave the featured address on behalf of the Prime Minister, who was initially set to deliver the featured address.
The building and the jetty cost a total of $10 million.
The minister added that since the invitation to tender, the CED and Central Tenders Board have worked assiduously and continued to engage with interested parties.
“It is anticipated that the tendering process for the four scanners would be completed by the end of February,” Imbert said.
“After that, we would move swiftly to select an appropriate supplier and commission and establish the scanners.”
He recalled that recently there were lots of talk about scanners.
“I made the point that TT scans about five or seven times more containers than are scanned in the US and ten times more than what is scanned in the European Union,” Imbert said.
“The point I was making is if we were to scan 100 per cent of containers, trade would grind to a halt.”
He said he was intrigued last week when he received letters from business organisations complaining about the time it took to scan containers at the port. The business community was asking him to do something about it.
“We scan at 17 per cent, if we scan 100 per cent, I cannot imagine what they would put in the letters,” Imbert said.
“That is the society we live in. We have sort of a schizophrenia approach to matters. People want 100 per cent scanning but do not want delays at the ports.”
San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello, San Fernando East and West MPs Brian Manning and Faris Al-Rawi, as well as president of the Greater San Fernando Area Chamber of Commerce Kiran Singh, attended the ceremony. UDeCOTT chairman Noel Garcia and officials from the division also attended.
The ministry also intends to acquire and use scanners at transit sheds and container examination stations.
Imbert said transit sheds and private warehouses provide an invaluable service in terms of trade facilitation and revenue collection.
However, the division and the ministry are also “acutely aware” that these facilities also form part of TT’s border security.
“We have begun to work to facilitate the inspection and improve the efficiency of security at all transit sheds and private warehouses,” Imbert said.
The Finance Minister recalled that over the past months, several anti-crime operations led to the discoveries of weapons in barrels.
“Of course, nobody knows who sent them. Nobody knows who was supposed to receive them,” Imbert said.
“So, a request for quotation is being prepared by the Ministry of Finance for the acquisition of Cabinet X-ray equipment.”
Trace Detection and Chemical Identification Systems are also set to be deployed at all transit sheds to ensure that these operations are properly secured, monitored and regulated.
The ministry also intends to take other measures like the regular change of all security locks and the installation of improved and independent CCTV coverage of operations at these sheds and warehouses.
Imbert also shared plans geared at improving security conditions at the Queen’s Wharf in Port of Spain.
He said Queen’s Wharf had been identified by the division and by a Joint Select Committee of Parliament as an area of risk.
A security and risk assessment of the operations at that wharf identified risks like the smuggling of weapons, drugs, alcohol, tobacco products, and pharmaceuticals, “and the like.”
“In response to these threats, the CED has identified measures to enhance border security at Queen’s Wharf.” Imbert said.
“The measures include strengthening the entries and exits and walls to restrict vehicular traffic to and from Queen’s Wharf.”
He said it also includes the establishment of a unit of the Preventive Branch of the CED to facilitate joint operations with other law enforcement agencies.
Imbert added, “The CED is currently working with the Port Authority, the Ministry of Works and Transport, and the police to expedite this process in the most efficient manner.”