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Port Point Lisas beefs up security

By Sasha Harrinanan Thursday, January 30 2014

Every single import and export container at Port Point Lisas in Couva will be inspected, once two container scanners are installed there.

This was the assurance given yesterday by chairman of the Board of the Point Lisas Industrial Port Development Corporation Limited (PLIPDECO), Ian Atherly, during the commissioning ceremony for a new $400 million Gottwald (GHMK 6507) Mobile Harbour Crane.

He noted the issue of port security is even more critical following the seizure of $640 million in cocaine found in Trinidad citrus juice tins in the United States.

“The recent and much publicised cocaine bust in Norfolk, Virginia has brought security on the ports back into the national spotlight...Acquisition of two container scanners to facilitate 100 percent inspection of import and export containers will go a long way in detecting the movement of illegal cargo and reducing the incidents of mis-declarations.”

Atherly also noted PLIPDECO is in talks with the National Security Ministry to integrate the video feed from some of its 100 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras into the surveillance system being used by the National Operations Centre (NOC) network based in Port-of-Spain.

Improved security at Port Point Lisas and in the surrounding waters was spoken of too by PLIPDECO president, Ashley Taylor.

He said while PLIPDECO has been working with Customs on a collaborative basis towards ensuring that a high level of security is maintained, “more needs to be done in a number of areas.” They include the acquisition of scanners, “Coast Guard patrols to ensure critical assets are protected and development of an integrated approach among all security agencies.”

Asked if security arrangements at the port had been revised in any way following the cocaine bust in Virginia, Taylor told reporters “security is a process of continuous improvement and re-evaluation.”

This includes weekly comprehensive exercises conducted by PLIPDECO’s security personnel in conjunction with Customs officers.

“For example, just last Saturday we completed a comprehensive exercise where over 51 containers were checked to see whether anything illegal was inside. Those checks were based on information we had beforehand and profiling of customers, profiling of where those containers would have been trans-shipped from.”

Taylor was not so quick to respond however when asked if the agents from the United States’ Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had either visited Port Point Lisas or been in contact with him.

“I would prefer not to comment on the investigation and stick to what we are doing as regards security.” Questioned if that was an indirect ‘yes’ Taylor replied “No. I’m saying I prefer not to discuss what’s happening with the investigation.”

Trade Minister Vasant Bharath also spoke about the recent cocaine bust, revealing that he and Transport Minister Stephen Cadiz had spoken earlier yesterday about whether or not the five scanners; four from the US and a large X-ray scanner from China, would be enough to meet demand.

“We need to (conduct) an assessment. The scanners will be placed at the two ports, one in Port-of-Spain and the rest at the port here. They will be monitoring both imports and exports,” Bharath stated.

The minister also said Customs is currently operating at 50 percent staff capacity but that he had “spoken with the Comptroller already, with a view to filling all of those positions.”

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