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High-risk containers in sights of new x-ray unit

NORTH Quay at Fremantle has been confirmed as the site for Australia’s fourth container x-ray facility.

The high-tech unit will be used to detect illegal substances in shipments into Fremantle as part of a 10-year lease signed by the Australian Customs Service for the 25,000 square metre site. Construction of the facility began in mid-June with the site expected to become fully operational by November this year.

The Fremantle facility will cost $35 million over four years.

In a recent statement Justice and Customs Minister, Senator Chris Ellison, said the facility would enable customs officers to increase inspection rates by 20 times, with each analysis taking just 10 to 15 minutes.

“Experience in other ports indicates this type of technology has an extremely valuable role to play in protecting Australia’s borders by detecting prohibited goods, including drugs, firearms and quarantine items that posed a threat to Australia,” Senator Ellison said.

“These facilities have already detected significant attempts to circumvent our borders by importing illicit drugs or evading duty.”

The technology is already operational in Melbourne and Sydney, with a facility in Brisbane to be commissioned later this month.

According to ACS spokesman Matt Wardell, the facility will enable the inspection of high-risk containers, without holding up legitimate trade.

“All containers coming into the port are risk assessed. We use a number of tools, techniques and procedures to determine whether a container, vessel or shipment coming in is a high or low risk,” Mr Wardell told WA Business News.

“If a scan detects an anomaly, we will then take it to the main part of the facility for further inspection.”

Manual inspection of a container involves unpacking it, which can take up to eight hours.

Fremantle Ports CEO Kerry Sanderson said Fremantle Ports was pleased to work closely with the Australian Customs Service to facilitate the increase in security, enabling them to operate efficiently and assisting the flow of trade through the inner harbour.

“The spacious site is at the far western end of the North Quay and is very close to the harbour’s container handling areas,” Ms Sanderson said.

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