Anna-Lisa Paul and Bobie-Lee Dixon
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Cadiz: Govt to spend $20m on port scanners
The Government is to buy two vehicle scanners at a cost of $20 million in order to lock down all ports of entry to the country and stifle the importation of illegal drugs and weapons, Transport Minister Stephen Cadiz said yesterday. Speaking at yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, Cadiz said the move to buy the scanners was initiated before last week’s seizure of $644 million worth of cocaine in Norfolk, Virginia, USA. The illegal drug was reportedly shipped from T&T. “We are taking steps to ensure we can close off our ports. We can manage the ports,” he added. Cadiz said the scanners should be available in just over six months.
He said a vessel tracking management system was also to be installed “to manage our seas better, especially the Gulf of Paria. It is an all-out effort... every single area we are looking at.” The minister said proper measures must also be implemented for goods leaving the country “to ensure our borders are secured coming in and going out.” He said there were guns in Tobago and there was no facility there that produced the weapons. “It is thought that there is some movement of illegal weapons and drugs between Trinidad and Tobago,” Cadiz said, adding that the plans will bring about “a further clampdown on the movement of illegal drugs and ammunition.” Cadiz insisted: “We have to close off every area that we can find that we can lock down. We will be doing that. We will close off all those holes that we can find... we will block them.”
He said the Government had the political will to deal with crime and was committed to doing just that. “You are going to see a marked difference in how we secure the various ports,” he said. New passenger scanners also were to be installed at airports, Cadiz added. Asked about the status of the new $25 million port scanners, Cadiz said they should be installed by the end of next month. In September last year, Trade, Industry and Investments Minister Vasant Bharath said the scanners would be installed by Christmas last year. Yesterday, however, Cadiz said the required approvals were being sought for the equipment to be installed in a few weeks. Cadiz also described operations at the Caricom jetty in Port-of-Spain as mass confusion, adding efforts are to be made to rectify this. He said he would lead a team of officials to the site today to determine how operations could be made more efficient as the present arrangement created major traffic jams on the nearby Beetham Highway and the car park facility was not adequate.