Coronavirus: Singapore

80% plunge in arrivals and departures here last year

Figure of over 42 million is lowest in 5 years, but volume of low-value cargo doubles

Passengers arriving at Changi Airport yesterday. The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority said traveller volume fell as demand for air travel came to a halt, with many countries imposing strict border control measures due to the Covid-19 pandemic. J
Passengers arriving at Changi Airport yesterday. The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority said traveller volume fell as demand for air travel came to a halt, with many countries imposing strict border control measures due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Just over 42 million travellers passed through Singapore's checkpoints last year, down from the over 217 million in 2019.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

More than 42 million travellers were cleared for entry and departure at Singapore's checkpoints last year, a plunge of over 80 per cent from the year before, while the low-value goods that came in doubled in volume to over 21 million pieces.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said yesterday that the volume of arrivals and departures - which saw an 80.6 per cent fall from the over 217 million in 2019 - was the lowest in five years.

In its annual statistics report, the ICA said traveller volume fell as demand for air travel came to a halt, with many countries imposing strict border control measures due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With many of those stuck at home doing their shopping online, the volume of low-value goods - which do not exceed $400 in costs - coming in rose sharply.

The ICA cleared over 21 million pieces of low-value goods through air cargo checkpoints last year, double the 10.5 million in 2019.

Meanwhile, the volume of cargo - including consignments, containers and parcels - coming into Singapore rose by 400,000 pieces last year, a 3.6 per cent increase from 2019.

The drop in travellers and vehicles entering Singapore led to a 55.4 per cent decrease in the number of contraband cases last year.

A total of 41,000 contraband cases were detected, compared with 92,000 in 2019.

Despite the decrease, the ICA said there is still an uptrend in the number of attempts to smuggle contraband into Singapore by hiding it among low-value goods.

The number of such cases went up more than six times - from 610 in 2019 to 4,000 last year.

The authorities also continued to detect huge amounts of contraband cigarettes and drugs hidden within legitimate shipments of goods at the checkpoints.

Some of these include "sophisticated methods of concealment" such as hiding cigarettes in metal cabinets, household items, cardboard boxes and in various modified compartments of vehicles.

The ICA said it will continue to watch these trends closely as such smuggling modus operandi can similarly be used by terrorists to smuggle weapons or explosives into Singapore.

The number of immigration offenders arrested fell by 49.2 per cent, with 473 cases last year, down from 932 in 2019.

Of those arrested last year, 416 were overstayers and 57 were illegal immigrants.

The ICA said most of the immigration offenders employed by errant bosses were working in the maintenance as well as food and beverage industries.

"The majority of the harbourers and employers arrested had failed to exercise due diligence, to conduct the necessary checks on the foreigners' immigration status, before employing them or renting out their premises," it said.

The ICA added that it will continue to work closely with other enforcement agencies to conduct operations against offenders hiding on non-residential premises like forested areas or farms.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 09, 2021, with the headline '80% plunge in arrivals and departures here last year'. Subscribe