Over 1.8 million cargo vehicles crossed Singapore's land checkpoints last year

At least 300 cartons of contraband cigarettes were seized from a modified van on Jan 19, 2016.
At least 300 cartons of contraband cigarettes were seized from a modified van on Jan 19, 2016.ST PHOTO: LIM YI HAN
19,200 sachets of chewing tobacco were seized from a bus on Jan 19, 2016.
19,200 sachets of chewing tobacco were seized from a bus on Jan 19, 2016.ST PHOTO: LIM YI HAN
The modified van used to smuggle some 300 cartons of contraband cigarettes on Jan 19, 2016.
The modified van used to smuggle some 300 cartons of contraband cigarettes on Jan 19, 2016.ST PHOTO: LIM YI HAN
ST VIDEO: LIM YI HAN

SINGAPORE - More than 1.8 million cargo vehicles, such as lorries, crossed the land checkpoints last year (2015).

On average, about 5,000 such vehicles cross the checkpoints daily and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) is expecting a higher volume during the lead-up to Chinese New Year.

Last year (2015), there were 990 detections of contraband and prohibited items, including drugs and contraband cigarettes smuggled via the cargo vehicles, down from about 1,290 the year before (2014).

"Despite stringent checks, smuggling attempts have not ceased. Checks are therefore critical and necessary," said Woodlands Command Deputy Commander, Superintendent Tan Kong Hui, in a meeting with the media on Tuesday (Jan 19), adding that there is a need to use technology to keep Singapore safe and secure.

Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints are two of the busiest land crossings in the world, said the ICA. Currently, ICA has two fully operational labs to test for "unconventional threats" such as radiation, explosives and chemicals at Woodands and Tuas checkpoints, and it has plans to roll out such facilities at other checkpoints.

Officers have equipment to help them with the checks, and samples are also taken for analysis at the labs. Such tests take about one to three hours.

Supt Tan said: "Over the years, the lorries and trucks have become bigger. Now it's quite common to see 60-footers (or the length of five saloon cars). It poses a challenge to us because you can have 30 different kinds of goods in a lorry, you can't possibly (unpack) each and every box to check."

On average, more than 70 lorries are screened a day by the lab specialists.

Explaining the importance of such screening, Supt Tan noted: "If we have a truck of construction materials which has a radiation reading of eight times of what is allowed, and it's used to construct buildings, people might be exposed to unhealthy levels of radiation.

"If nitrates in fertilisers are way past acceptable levels... they can also be made into explosives."

Separately, two Malaysia-registered vehicles were also found to be carrying over 1,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes and around 19,000 satchets of chewing tobacco on Tuesday morning. The two drivers, whose details are not known yet, have been arrested.