New Container Scanner At American Samoa Customs Functioning Well

$200 per container scan examined more than 100 containers in first 2 days

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, April 9, 2017) – Deputy Treasurer of Revenue, Keith Gebauer describes the first few days since the launch of the M60 container scanner as a success, with the new Customs operation scanning just over 100 containers at the Port of Pago Pago.

The new container scanner operation went into effect on Monday, with the $200 scanning fee charged per container 20-feet and over. The scanner equipment is part of a new law that went into effect Dec. 15, 2016.

Prior to Monday’s “going live” day for the scanner, port users and the business community met with Gebauer and Port Administration deputy director, Chris King, last Friday morning to hear directly from them, their concerns, issues and feedback of the new scanning process.

A follow-up meeting was held Wednesday morning this week, where Gebauer noted that on the first day, Monday, 52 containers were scanned followed by the next day with 57 scanned containers, despite bad weather conditions on the two days.

Responding to Samoa News inquiries yesterday, Gebauer said 57 containers were again scanned on Wednesday. “We are averaging about 55 containers — plus vehicles — per day after the first three days,” he said. “While the weather wasn't cooperating, it had little effect on the scanning [Wednesday].

He explained that the M60 is designed to operate in all types of weather and they currently operate in many ports/borders throughout the world. While he didn’t have information on the number of containers that left the port after the M60 shut down operations, they are looking into this, “but I can say that during its operating hours, no container left the yard without being scanned.”

Gebauer said, “As the majority of the containers have been processed and released, we anticipate lower numbers for the rest of this week until the next vessel arrives. He told those who attended the Wednesday port users meeting that scan operation hours are from 6:30a.m. - 3:30p.m.

He said the Customs Division, which is overseen by Treasury Department, thanked the Port Authority and its staff for their support and partnership in this launch. They also thanked all the port users and those in the business community “for their patience and understanding” and they “deployed the M60 as part of our border security enhancement.”

Gebauer is grateful for the feedback from the port users, because it’s an important component to helping shape how they develop the scanning process moving forward. “We have already learned how to improve or tweak our processes from their feedback and the learning from our scanning team.”

He thanked the entire Customs division for working together. “While this has been scanning section’s M60 launch, every section of Customs has had a hand in supporting this launch. Thank you.”

At the Wednesday meeting, King recapped for port users the observations and other issues that surfaced during the first day of operation such as revamping the “safety zone” for scanning operation.

Samoa News observed on Monday a truck trailer with a 40-foot container trying to maneuver on the dock as it tried to enter the scanning equipment, while two other truck trailers with 20-foot containers were behind it.

At Wednesday’s meeting, one of the vendors again raised the issue of scanning operations being halted when a cruise ship comes into port. This was also discussed at last Friday’s meeting.

King responded that Port is asking Customs not to carry out scanning operations, because of the very limited space on the main dock. For example, when Apr. 22 comes around “the entire port will probably shutdown because of the two cruise ships.” He added that there is a cruise ship also arriving on Apr. 16.

At the Wednesday meeting, Gebauer thanked port users for their feedback, which is helpful to Customs working together with vendors going forward. “Our goal is to scan 100 percent of all incoming containers,” he said.

The deputy revenue treasurer explained that in order to achieve the goal of scanning 100% of all incoming containers, two things have to happen, and that includes having “the scanning operation 24-hours a day.” However, he said this is not “really an option... in terms of the logistics of it and we don’t have the manpower.”

Before the launching of scanner operation, Customs went through training as well as testing of the M60 equipment. He said that there is a difference between testing and carrying out a “live” operation, with containers lining up to be scanned.

“So it’s still (a) learning experience along the way, for such a new system,” he said. “[We] are learning the right pace to effectively and efficiently utilize the tools that are there.

Regarding random scanning of containers as suggested at last Friday’s meeting, Gebauer said it’s “something we can talk about for the best way forward.”

“I think it was good launch for the introduction of a new technology and a new process into our existing processing procedures for releasing containers,” he said, adding that as more ships come, Customs expects an increase in the number of containers to be scanned.

Questions again arose about the scanning fee vs. the inspection fee, where Gebauer reiterated that both are to be paid — the $200 scan fee is part of the new law, while the $60 inspection fee remains unchanged.

And it appears that many vendors took heed of the advice at last Friday’s meeting and took their containers off the port this past weekend before the scanner operations went live, with Gebauer noting, “We did have a significant amount of containers that [went] out on Saturday and Sunday.”

Samoa News will continue to report on vendor concerns about the container scan issue in future editions.

The Samoa News
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