Imbert: Probe coming into repeated damage to port scanners

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Finance Minister Colm Imbert. – File photo by Angelo Marcelle

AN investigation will be launched into repeated damage to the container scanners at the Port of Port of Spain, Finance Minister Colm Imbert has said.

His revelation came in the Senate on July 2 after a follow-up question by independent senator Paul Richards.

Providing a status update on the scanners at the port during his initial response, Imbert said the pallet scanner at the container examination station was almost 20 years old and had not been working for the last ten years. He said an accelerated procurement process was undertaken for a modern, fit-for-purpose pallet scanner. He said other scanners worked intermittently, requiring frequent repairs, because they were “somehow easily damaged by errant forklifts.”

Citing revelations at a previous meeting of the Joint Select Committee on National Security about tardiness in getting new scanners, coupled with the revelation of frequent damage, Richards asked Imbert if this could be seen as a dereliction of duty or aiding and abetting criminal activity.

Imbert said: “You are essentially asking me if the delays in procurement of scanners and the frequent damage, mysterious damage – that is why I said the senator is aware, because the senator would have heard testimony in the committee about a forklift mysteriously finding its way across the shed and running into the scanner more than once.

“If you are asking me to determine if it’s deliberate and whether it’s part of some organised operation, I am not competent to answer that. Your guess is as good as mine.” When asked, Imbert said had the equipment been fully functional and “not so often and easily damaged,” and the procurement not delayed, the Customs Division would have been better able to detect contraband. Imbert said the events would be subject to a full investigation when Richards asked about it.

Despite trouble with the pallet and mobile scanners, Imbert said all CCTV cameras at the examination station and fixed scanner were fully functional.

To combat staff challenges at the port, he said 24 officers were being trained for scanning operations and 40 more will be appointed. He said the 24 staffers trained for scanning will use four mobile scanners expected to arrive in August and the two new pallet scanners being procured. He said these new mobile scanners and pallet scanners will be split between the ports at Port of Spain and Point Lisas.

Imbert said the two new pallet scanners which are being procured would be able to scan containers with large variations in cargo density, which are a challenge for the current ones.