US$1M container scanner now fully operational
In keeping with the requirements of the International Maritime Organization for the exportation of products to the United States and other regions, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) yesterday announced that its US$1M Container Scanner is now fully operational since it was procured in May 2010.
During an organized media tour of the scanner facility at the Guyana National Shipping Corporation (GNSC) Wharf, Lombard Street, GRA Senior Manager in the Scanner Operations Unit, Simone Beckles, highlighted the systems under which the state-of-the-art equipment operates.
Previously questions have been asked as to why the machine has not been in operation, months after its procurement, and the discovery of millions worth in cocaine in a container shipped from Guyana to Jamaica.
However, Commissioner-General of the GRA, Khurshid Sattaur, said that while the scanner (branded the “Rapiscan GaRDS Portal”) was not in operation, the company repaired the machine under a warranty arrangement which was at no cost to the government.
The scanner was put into service on May 23, 2011, to meet the growing demand for thorough inspection of containers to ensure compliance with regulations regarding shipping to the United States of America and to halt the secreting of illicit substances with declared cargo.
Since being put into operation some sixty (60) containers have been scanned with one being detained for further investigations.
The GRA head noted that the container scanner significantly reduces the time taken to do an inspection since the process is non-intrusive and will ultimately increase efficiency. The scanner will also safeguard against revenue loss.
However, owners of private wharves complained that the cost of the type of scanner that would satisfy the international standard was too exorbitant for the private sector.
In preparation for the start of scanner operations, an oversight committee comprising key stakeholders was formed to ensure the smooth implementation. Subsequently, GRA held meetings with the Private Sector Commission, the Shipping Association of Guyana, Guyana Manufacturers Association, Guyana Forest Products, exporters, and the Customs Brokers Association. Several advisories were also placed in the media for the benefit of the general public.
Offices and other support facilities are still under construction at GNSC and the entire facility is scheduled to be commissioned later this year.
During the media tour, Manager of Scanner Operations, Shawn Smith, said the process is conducted in three segments between two personnel – the scanner operator is stationed outside and inside the office is the scanning specialist.
He explained that the primary function of the scanning operator is to manage the traffic visiting the facility on a daily basis while ensuring all the procedures are in compliance with the system. The scanning specialist then analyses the images generated from the container by the scanner, and if there are discrepancies the officials are summoned when the container is being checked for any illegalities.
The “Rapiscan GaRDS portal” features an intrinsically lower radiation field when compared to equivalent X-ray systems. This provides a smaller operational area and exclusion safety zone, The GaRDS Gamma-ray technology requires less maintenance and lower cost of ownership than equivalent X-ray systems. The GaRDS product family is designed to detect hidden contraband, including; weapons, explosives, weapons of mass destruction, drugs, and undeclared goods, These GaRDS systems meet applicable US and international radiation safety standards.
Easy to use the system requires only one operator, there is high throughput screening and drive through scanning allows inspection of up to 180 trucks per hour. The Enhanced Penetration model provides up to 190 mm of steel penetration. There is full imaging of cargo or container contents without corner cut-off; manifest verification; minimal infrastructure is easily integrated into existing facilities; automated scanning operation; no manual controls needed, and it is designed for all weather conditions.
Simone Beckles said the scanning process involves the use of a gamma ray machine to scan the contents of containerized shipment selected for scrutiny on the basis of risk assessment. The scan takes approximately five to 10 minutes. This non-intrusive scan removes the need for time-consuming manual inspection.
She explained that the GRA acquired the container scanner in May 2010 at a cost of US$ 1 million, with funding from Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) / United States Agency International Development (USAID) and the Government of Guyana.
In addition, Beckles said that the equipment will be utilized as a tool by the Law Enforcement and Investigation Division (LEID) in keeping with the GRA’s standardisation and modernisation programme. Primarily, it was proposed that the scanner be utilised in processing mainly containerised imports as part of enhancing Revenue Protection exercises.
“However, based on several factors, including international requirements, the United States of America has initiated the process of mandatory certification for all exports arriving at its ports.”
Adding that due to the volume of illegal drugs/narcotics being found concealed in containers leaving Port Georgetown, Beckles said GRA’s mandate was extended by cabinet to include profiling and scanning of containerised exports. The new mandate resulted in a reassessment of the Customs Operations and the intended use of the scanner.
Beckles explained that as the GRA worked to identify the best possible location for the scanner, the Shipping Association was invited to a discussion about suitable locations with representatives of GRA, and the consensus was that it would have to be within the locality of Georgetown to prevent disruption to trade.
An assessment was therefore done of the current accommodation to determine suitability for the processing of containerised exports, and after several factors were considered, it was determined that the Guyana National Shipping Corporation (GNSC) compound was ideal for the placement of the scanner terminal.
Commissioner-General Sattaur indicated that there has been no fee for the scanning of containers as yet, however, after involving other stakeholders in a consultation, a sum would be implemented.
The GRA head said the suppliers of Rapiscan GaRDS portal trained new GRA staff to operate the scanner “so that they can detect extraneous items.”
He added that, the scanner will “improve revenue collection from imports while at the same time improve the image of Guyana as a country whose exports comply with the law”.