New tech being tested to improve detection of illegal shipments

The authorities are testing new technology that can more effectively detect illegal shipments including wildlife entering Singapore, especially through the sea checkpoints.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development Sun Xueling, speaking in Parliament yesterday, said the Home Affairs Ministry and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority are testing a prototype of the Multi-Mode Passive Detection System, an automatic scanning system that uses machine-learning algorithms to detect explosives, drugs, humans and other contraband.

She was responding to questions posed by Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) about the measures being taken by the Government to deter and detect the illegal trade of pangolins here, apart from relying on tip-offs and risk assessment work.

He noted that radiographic scanners and handheld screening devices can be more easily deployed at air and land checkpoints, but may be difficult to use when scanning containers on board ships.

Ms Sun acknowledged that while all incoming cargo at the air and land checkpoints are scanned, only selected cargo identified during upstream risk assessment undergoes scans due to the large volume that passes through the port.

She said: "If there is better tech available that allows us to scan greater volumes of cargo more effectively, more efficiently, we will definitely do so. And that's why we are conducting the pilot... But as it is a pilot, we would have to work with a vendor to see how we can improve the information set, the details, the data that we gather, and see if it is effective, and we will look at using it in future."

Mr Ng also asked for the manpower and enforcement teams at the National Parks Board (NParks) to be increased to tackle wildlife crime issues in Singapore.

Ms Sun replied that manpower was an issue that the NParks management will make revisions or updates to "as and when necessary".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2019, with the headline 'New tech being tested to improve detection of illegal shipments'. Print Edition | Subscribe