Friday, May 20, 2011

No Seizures From Freight Containers Alarms Inspector

UKBA Under the Microscope as Officers Concentrate on Passport Control
Shipping News Feature

UK – Having come under heavy criticism for exercising poor control over the number of migrant workers entering the country just three days ago, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has once more come under attack for ineffectiveness in its examination of the freight imported and exported in shipping containers.

On the 17th May a report published by the Committee of Public Accounts indicated the MPs’ concern that the UKBA had ‘not got a grip’ on ensuring those with expired visas had actually left the UK, had failed to check sponsoring employers and lacked the management information needed to monitor migrant numbers. Now, a report on the management of freight traffic in Scotland and Northern Ireland is critical of the results being obtained by the Agency and the methods used.

The independent report to the Home Affairs Committee on the Agency’s work says that examinations in Northern Ireland are carried out using intelligence information up to two years out of date leaving the province wide open to smuggling contraband. Astonishingly the inspectors report indicates that smaller ports in Northern Ireland had simply been removed from the risk register with threat assessments completed on only sixteen of around one hundred and forty ports.

Many in the industry have long believed the border between North and South is vulnerable to criminals with little or no cross border inspections. A report from John Vine CBE QPM, Chief Inspector of the Agency and tasked with providing an independent view, indicates there have been no seizures at the ports studied from freight containers for over a year and emphasises that the agency needs to improve the identification of threats to UK borders and the way it addresses them.

Mr Vine was tasked with studying how staff are deployed at air and sea ports in Scotland and Northern Ireland and the methods for identifying and addressing threats, how they select freight consignments and trucks for searches and the treatment of the public by officers. As a result the Inspector has presented seven recommendations to resolve the problems. Mr Vine says:

"I found that the focus of staff deployment at airports was concentrated on the primary checkpoint (passport control), potentially at the expense of illicit commodity detection. I found that only 63 out of 683 threat assessments of small air and seaports had been conducted in the whole of Scotland and Northern Ireland, with none since 2008.At the ports inspected, I was surprised to find that the agency had not made any seizures from freight containers for the 14-month period between the end of September 2009 and our inspection in November 2010."

Photo: A consignment of drugs hidden beneath a container floor.