Environmental News Archive

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Singapore opens border facility to reduce threat of chemical, biological attacks

By Hoe Yeen Nie, Channel NewsAsia
20 January 2009 1435 hrs

SINGAPORE: Singapore has opened the world's first border facility to weed out the threat of chemical and biological attacks.

Called the Protective and Analytical Facility, it is located at the Tuas Checkpoint in western Singapore.

About a million cargo vehicles pass through the Tuas Checkpoint every year. As the frequency in border crossings between Singapore and its neighbours increases, so too does the threat of a biological attack.

All hazardous cargoes and livestock entering Singapore must do so through the Tuas Checkpoint. This makes frontline customs officers at the checkpoint most at risk of exposure to chemical and biological hazards.

The new facility will strengthen Singapore's defence against these threats. An early warning system will detect the release of hazardous agents at the checkpoint cargo lanes.

If there is a chemical spill or deliberate attack, those affected can wash themselves at the decontamination facility. There is also a laboratory to identify and analyse the chemical.

Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng, who is also the Home Affairs Minister, said: "Our checkpoints cannot be viewed simply as a mere crossing for efficient immigration and customs clearance procedures. It is the critical first line of defence of our national security."

Citing the SARS episode in 2003, Mr Wong also warned against biological agents that could cause an outbreak in the country.

Mr Wong said while they may not be terrorist acts, their potential consequences are no less devastating.

New border facility opens
Jan 20, 2009
By Teh Joo Lin (Straits Times)
A NEW $4 million laboratory and decontamination unit at Tuas Checkpoint, which can spot chemical, toxic and biological agents in consignments carried by trucks into Singapore, opened on Tuesday morning.

In the event of any accidental or deliberate spillage, checkpoints officers who come into contact with toxic substances can also decontaminate themselves in the unit within a few minutes of exposure.

The two-storey Protective and Analytical Facility, located next to the cargo checking area, was opened by Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng.

The building is touted to be the first of its kind at border controls around the world.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Mr Wong said hazardous materials like chemical and biological agents could be smuggled into Singapore by terrorists, so the 'facility is a critical addition to our surveillance capabilities of security-sensitive materials and infectious diseases that could cross our borders'.

Pointing to a 2 per cent increase in the number of contraband smuggling cases at the checkpoints last year over 2007, he added that 'if one can smuggle cigarettes, one can smuggle terrorist operatives or explosives into the country'.

There were about 38,600 contraband seizures last year.

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