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Travel & Holiday

More checks on security barriers at checkpoint

Leaking hydraulic fluid to blame for barrier's failure to stop car: DPM Teo
The Straits Times - April 15, 2014
By: Tham Yuen-C
| More
More checks on security barriers at checkpoint Malaysians Tan Chu Seng and Nurul Ruhana Ishak were involved in two recent security breaches at Woodlands Checkpoint.

SECURITY barriers at the Woodlands Checkpoint will get new hydraulic components, and will be checked daily, as more measures are put in place to prevent a repeat of the recent security breaches there.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean revealed this in Parliament yesterday as news emerged that yet another driver had been arrested for trying to evade clearance at the checkpoint on Sunday, following two security breaches there in recent months.

On March 8, a 64-year-old man drove through a barrier, barely two months after a former teacher from Malaysia sneaked into Singapore by tailgating another car at the checkpoint.

Yesterday, Mr Teo explained for the first time why the cat- claw barrier, which flips out and damages car tyres, had failed to stop Malaysian Tan Chu Seng on March 8, despite being activated.

It turned out that leaking hydraulic fluid was to blame.

Responding to questions from MPs, Mr Teo, who is also Home Affairs Minister, said the hydraulic fluid in one of the barrier's cylinder seals had leaked out. The cylinder seals are the components that raise and keep the barrier in place.

Thus, the barrier could not maintain its position. That was why Tan managed to drive through the barrier, damaging it in the process, after he was stopped for a routine boot inspection that day. He has since been charged with committing a rash act and with vandalism.

Yesterday, Mr Teo also said the barrier had failed despite having been serviced on Feb 18, less than a month before the incident.

To prevent a repeat, security barriers at the checkpoint will now be checked daily, instead of once every three months, he said.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will also be deploying tracking vehicles, which will chase down those who manage to leave the checkpoint without clearing immigration and Customs checks, he added. He acknowledged yesterday that five hours - the time taken to find and nab Tan - was a "long time".

These are on top of measures already put in place to strengthen security at the checkpoint following the recent incidents. For example, the ICA had also tightened coordination with the police and deployed mobile crash barriers.

Mr Teo said a ministry-level review committee, chaired by Senior Deputy Secretary of the Home Affairs Ministry Khoo Boon Hui and comprising senior representatives from the ICA, police, Internal Security Department and other Home Team agencies, has been formed to review security measures and identify systemic issues.

But even as he sought to assure the House that security at the Woodlands Checkpoint was being taken seriously, he added that the recent security breaches "show the scale and complexity of the checkpoint operations".

Besides maintaining border security, Singapore's land checkpoints also have to facilitate the swift and secure clearance of people and goods, he noted, adding that it was not easy to strike the right balance.

Manpower at the checkpoints had been boosted since the mid- 2000s, but infrastructural constraints had resulted in some delay to clearance of vehicles, he said. That is why the ICA has also moved to increase the capacity of the checkpoints to alleviate congestion, he added.

For instance, it had opened up the old Woodlands Checkpoint and also put in more counters over the years to accommodate the traffic flowing through the checkpoint. Another 30 counters for cars will be added by 2016.

By the middle of this year, all work permit and S Pass holders will also be automatically enrolled on the ICA's automated clearance systems, making 95 per cent of all Malaysian motorcycle trips eligible for automated clearance. Some 72,000 motorcycles pass through the checkpoints daily, so this will free up some of the counters for other vehicles.

These measures will help to "strike a better balance between speed of clearance" and tight security, said Mr Teo.

He added that despite recent incidents, the ICA has been "reasonably effective" at deterring and containing such incidents.

"There will always be attempts by people to evade Customs or immigration checks at the borders and this is not unique to Singapore... but overall, I would say that our border security is very tight," he said.

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