Swords, cigarettes and snakes: How ICA's image analysts detect cargo anomalies

Checkpoint Inspector 1 (CI1) Muhammad Zakiyy Moideen analysing the densities of scanned images of cargo. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Since October, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) has been progressively implementing new initiatives at Tuas Port, with the aim of providing visitors with a seamless and more secure cargo clearance experience.

Technology will help to strengthen ICA's ability to prevent contraband items from entering Singapore, the authority said.

For instance, the radiographic scanning portal scans cargo for anomalies as vehicles go through it.

Checkpoint Inspector 1 (CI1) Muhammad Zakiyy Moideen, a radiographic image analyst with ICA, told reporters at Tuas Port on Monday (April 18) that such anomalies could be items with uneven image density or odd shapes, or those that were not declared in the cargo clearance permit by importers.

At Tuas Port, the scanners give image analysts both the top and side views of the items. This makes it easier to spot undeclared or contraband items being smuggled in.

For an item like a bicycle, if it is laid horizontally in a container, it may not be detected when the container is viewed from the side.

But viewed from the top, the bicycle would be easily spotted, explained CI1 Zakiyy.

Besides undeclared goods, image analysts at ICA checkpoints have also foiled attempts to illegally smuggle items such as katana swords and snakes into Singapore this year.

Cargo passing through the radiographic scanning portal at Tuas Port on April 14, 2022. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Duty-unpaid cigarettes have also been detected, often hidden in various compartments of vehicles entering Singapore.

CI1 Zakiyy said: "Cigarettes which are made of organic materials would appear in a lighter shade, like orange, while metal might appear in darker shades, like blue, due to their higher density.

"People with ill-intentions may try to hide contraband items in high-density materials. The additional top-down scanning of the radiographic scanning portal at Tuas Port better enables image analysts to make an accurate assessment."

In the future, ICA officers will have even more tools, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics, in their arsenal to identify such items.

ICA said: "Through data analytics and AI, ICA will have stronger capabilities to detect anomalies and prevent undesirable cargo from crossing our borders.

"At the same time, we will retool and upskill our officers with the relevant competencies to ensure that they can effectively perform these transformed roles."

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