How Scanners Will Improve National Security, Stop Annual N9.6trn

By Steve Agbota, [email protected]

the A new set of scanners set to be deployed by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) at ports and border posts across the country will end an estimated N9.6 trillion annual revenue loss, boost security national level and will facilitate trade facilitation in the country.

The new system known as Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII), Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), is driven by high precision image capture and analysis capability.

For years, stakeholders have lamented that the lack of scanners at ports has led Customs to perform 100% physical examination of cargoes, virtually hampering trade facilitation and the rapid evacuation of cargoes from ports. maritime.

Shippers and importers have complained in different fora that the lack of scanners in ports costs them more than 800 billion naira per month, which translates into an annual loss of about 9.6 trillion naira.

As a result, in 2020 the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the purchase of scanners for Port Harcourt and Tin Can Island ports to expedite port operations.

Finance, Budget and National Planning Minister Zainab Ahmed said the scanners will help facilitate the work of customs and inspection officers as well as reduce delays that pose operational challenges at ports.

However, Customs has recently taken delivery of some scanners at Apapa, Tin-Can Island and Onne seaports for cargo examination and to facilitate trade facilitation.

Daily Sun has learned that the new scanning system which is a non-intrusive inspection version and an upgrade of the existing system that eliminates human contact, has the capacity to scan 400 containers per day.

Speaking during the sensitization program for stakeholders on processes and SOP, Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, Modernization and ICT, Saidu Galadima said the scheme would start operating and be rolled out as soon as the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, would give a date for its commissioning.

According to him, the scanners would scan a minimum of 400 containers per day at each port, adding that the boxes would be scanned in one minute.

“This awareness is critical to the success of the non-intrusive technology that Customs is about to launch at ports. The management of the NCS ordered us to come and sensitize the stakeholders on the progress of the functioning of the new regime.

“The essence of new technology borders on trade facilitation. Only compliant traders will celebrate. If you are sufficiently compliant, you will have no contact with a customs agent. Cargoes will be cleared without anyone needing to go to a customs office.

On how the system would work, Galadima said that all activities would start once the scanning process is complete, emphasizing that when ships docked, containers would be scanned before being taken to the stacking area where cargo declarations would begin.

“The whole scanning process would have been completed before the officers made their statements. We have qualified customs officers who would equip them. Although the manufacturer, which we have agreement with would place their technical staff to supervise the operation of the scanners, which are brand new, our agents have also been trained to supervise these scanners.

“At full capacity, the scanners would scan 400 containers per day with four hours off. For each 20ft container, the scanner would take an average of 35 seconds each to scan. For each 40ft container, the scanners will scan them for an average of 45 seconds each.

“The scanners were configured in our NICIS II platform. During the analysis of the images, the customs clearance agents will have nothing to do with it. The image analysis area would be a prohibited area for agents. The scanning area will be a controlled area. We will not allow people to loiter there,” explained.

For the physical examination, he suggested that the NCS aims to ensure that the percentage of scanning would be greater than the number of containers that would be subjected to the physical examination.

“We all have to make it work. If officers decide to cut corners, they would bear the cost of the delay associated with the physical examination. So being compliant would benefit all of us. Scanning would be performed on the morning, afternoon and possibly night shift, depending on the flow of business.

“The system was configured in Nigeria Customs Information System Integrated System (NICIS II). The primary goal is to reduce physical examination and we need merchant compliance to achieve this. This is the start of our automation process as Customs will soon introduce an end-to-end automated process,” he said.

Galadima further assured port users that the introduction of scanners in port operations would reduce the cost of doing business by reducing the rate of demurrage and storage charges that importers pay on containers due to delay. He said that it would also make things easier for terminal operators by eliminating the time of moving containers from the ship to the stacking area and back to the scanning bay, as the new scheme would allow containers to be scanned at the arrival and the image analyzed thereafter.

In his presentation, Assistant Comptroller Paul Ekpeyong, who is the officer in charge of the new system, said customs in all commands would work shifts – morning, afternoon and possibly night – to allow enough time to avoid a traffic overflow.

According to him, as soon as a vessel docks, the terminal operator collects the containers from the scanning site where the containers are scanned, while images of the contents are stored, including container numbers and truck numbers between others.

“The images are then stored, to act as a database in case any issues are discovered after a container is released, the affected container can be easily traced,” he said.

He said that in accordance with the SOP, shipping lines and terminal operators interface umbilically with the NCS, Registrants, NICID II Risk Engine, Imagery Analyst, NCS Control, Terminal Operators, reverification agents and scanner managers are all designed and integrated into the system.

He said the operation is such that once declarations are made, assessments are generated and payments made without delay, adding that after payment, selectivity is triggered and containers are allocated for scanning and processing. image analysis. He added that the next step is the interpretation of scanned containers to determine their compliance status while compliant containers hit a green button in the scanning machine, non-compliant containers hit a red lane.

“The former is digitally marked Not Suspect, while non-compliant containers are marked Suspicious.

While non-suspicious and suspicious containers are returned to the scanner manager, the suspect container is returned to the terminal where owners or agents are notified and arrangements are made to repeat the process.

“However, container owners are obligated to discuss and settle with terminal operators regarding any demurrage incurred,” he explained.

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