SINGAPORE - Two weeks after security checks were beefed up for buses arriving at Tuas Checkpoint, officers from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) foiled an attempt to smuggle contraband cigarettes into Singapore.
Hidden inside the engine compartment of the Malaysian-registered bus were 1,155 cartons and 796 packets of contraband cigarettes, which were liable for $105,434 in duty and $7,727 in goods and services tax.
The 32-year-old Malaysian bus driver was arrested and later sentenced to 17 months' jail.
The discovery of the cigarettes on Aug 6 was aided by the installation of imaging scanners at Tuas Checkpoint, said Assistant Commissioner Colin Tan from ICA on Friday (Oct 19).
Since the two X-ray bus scanners were installed on July 23, ICA officers have also uncovered three cases of passengers sleeping inside buses crossing the checkpoint. All passengers need to alight from the buses for immigration checks when entering Singapore.
AC Tan, Commander of Tuas Command, said the bus scanners have enabled the ICA to conduct security checks more effectively and efficiently.
"In the past, it would take at least four officers up to two hours to manually search a bus thoroughly - and this was done only for suspicious vehicles. Now, with the scanners, we are able to check every single bus that comes through the checkpoint in a matter of minutes," he said.
If the X-ray images show anomalies, officers will conduct manual inspections on the specific parts of the bus highlighted from the scan.
So far, 40 officers have been trained to analyse the images from the bus scanners, said the ICA.
It is also exploring ways to implement machine learning and artificial intelligence to the scanning system, to prompt officers when an anomaly is detected.
Before the bus scanners were installed, ICA gathered feedback from bus drivers, said AC Tan. For example, a speaker was installed at the scanning area to allow officers to communicate with the bus drivers.
Brochures in various languages were distributed to help educate drivers on the new security process, alongside pictorial instructions guiding them into the scanning area, he added.
The X-ray scan does not pose a health risk to the drivers, as their compartment is not scanned but instead manually inspected.
To further enhance security at Tuas Checkpoint, travellers are also now required to go through security and customs checks before immigration clearance. This also applies to those travelling by car at Woodlands Checkpoint, said the ICA.
According to a previous report by The Straits Times, ICA is studying plans to install the bus scanners at Woodlands Checkpoint. However, the scanners may be set up differently due to space constraints.