Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Security- Change is coming to India’s airports

Orient Aviation
Neelam Mathews in New Delhi

Shifting world dynamics has opened new challenges for security at India’s fast growing airports. Operators’ concern for the safety of passengers needs to be balanced with the smooth and efficient running of airports, presenting them with a dichotomy they will continue to face for some years.
As though removing items from carry-on baggage for screening, prohibition of restricted items, stressful queues and having to deal with dutyfree items, were not enough, passengers worldwide continue to bear the brunt of demands that increase daily to ensure they are safe.
For instance, the latest rule for domestic passengers at Delhi’s new Terminal 3 airport is mandatory check-in at least two hours before boarding a flight!
Yet, security breaches are not as rare as they should be. Many Indian airports continue to struggle with limited infrastructure and the sudden surge of traffic in years following an economic boom made matters worse. Recently, a passenger was allowed to enter a terminal and board a flight on a month-old boarding pass!
Last year, a low-intensity device (described as a bomb which causes only minimal damage) was found in the cargo hold of a domestic carrier.
With no central decision making authority at Indian airports, serious issues need to be resolved at national
government level. “Security at only 58 of 125 Indian airports is looked after by the Central Industrial Security Force. The remaining airports rely on local police and other agencies, which brings its own set of challenges (of coordination and communication),” said Gyaneshwar Singh, general manager, Airports Authority of India.
There was a need for a unified security agency at all airports as security measures have a bearing on processing time, staffing, queues and stress, security and facilitation, he said.
However, change is coming. New airports in India - over 12 greenfield airports are planned - are expected to incorporate sophisticated systems in their designs.
Meanwhile, a long drawn out security-related confrontation between government and airlines that began in 2007 and which has restricted airlines to approved ground handlers, might be drawing to a close after airlines lost a case in the courts.
Instead of outsourcing manpower, airlines will now have to hire the services of security-cleared ground handling agencies. The business is estimated to be worth around $500 million a year.
Issues related to quality benchmarking and baggage security have determined the move. “This decision is expected to result in enhanced safety for passengers and prevent pilferage of baggage and cargo,” said Satyan Nayar, secretary general, Association of Private Airport Operators.
“There are gangs operating at airports. They cannot be controlled as they are not airline employees, but outsourced to numerous agencies.”
Information Technology isincreasingly playing a role at Indian airports. Until recently, there has been a heavy reliance on manual procedures at the country’s airports.
Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, run by the GMR group, is the first airport in the region to install the Perimeter Intrusion Detection System. This is a combination of surveillance systems, including close circuit television cameras, infrared detection and radio frequency on the airport’s perimeter walls to counter threats of an intrusion. The system is also being installed at Delhi Airport, said GMR’s chief executive, airports, P.S Nair.
Other technologies could also include RFID tags for frequent flyer checked luggage, mobile device check-in and boarding ‘apps’ enabling for entirely electronic boarding passes, said Sury Chavali, partner, global commercial industries at Unisys, the master systems integrator for T3.
“We see an increase in self service kiosks with embedded biometric authentication in India to make services such as passenger or baggage check-in quicker and easier,” said Sue Carter, Unisys vice-president, sales, Asia Pacific.
Said Jim Martin, managing director, ARINC Asia-Pacific: “The situation in India is more relevant because of its explosive growth. Airlines do not need to duplicate investment in the same equipment if they go for the common-use solution.”
ARINC expects the Indian market to be worth around $100 million in the passenger processing domain alone.
ARINC’s system is being installed at Delhi airport’s T3. The company is also pitching for the greenfield Navi Mumbai Airport- the second airport in the city.
“Technology will leap forward in India where new private airports, starting with a clean slate, are being built,” said Martin.
Last year, Airport Authority Hong Kong renewed a service level agreement with ARINC to maintain the complex passenger check-in system and related technology at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA). It includes over 1,000 workstations from airport Terminals 1 and 2, multiple Airport Express train stations in town, to off-site check-ins at Hong Kong, Macau and Mainland China locations.
But threat perceptions remain and need to be eliminated. As London prepares for the security challenges it will face during the Olympic Games in 2012, security consultants from Israel, the U.S and Canada,
employed by AR Challenges, are working on a pilot project for Stanstead airport security.
The Trust Based Security (TBS) system is an integrated, overall asset-protection security approach specifically focusing on transportation infrastructure.
Ninety percent of terrorist prevention was the result of effective intelligence, said Rafi Sela, the founder of AR
Challenges. TBS passenger identities are verified through a combination of several tracking systems using a unique “Smart Card” approach and an enrollment system. Passengers categorized as unknown threats will meet with safety officers trained to identify threat-related behaviour. Those classified as known threats will be prohibited from flying.
A mid-sized Indian airport is also looking at the AR Challenges TBS model. “In India, we are saying, just give us the security tax at the airport and we will install the system under the Build Operate Transfer (BOT) method,” said Sela.
“The airport also gets additional benefits beyond security. Retailers are willing to pay to get their message to
passengers by offering spot discounts, airport operators can track vendors and employees and airlines can service their premium passengers as soon as they arrive.”
The system has been tested for 10 months at the world’s highest threat airport - Israel’s Ben Gurion. Once the pilot programmes of TBS are completed, AR Challenges plans to introduce it to the International Civil
Aviation Organization (ICAO).
A similar concept was recently introduced at Singapore’s Changi International Airport.
TBS will also solve disputes which result from the ‘No Fly List’ by identifying risk passengers before they board a flight to the U.S, a system that will eliminate the airlines’responsibility to pay for the flight home of passengers refused entry at U.S. border points in airports.
The system is simple. Once a trustworthiness assessment is created as passengers watch the screen when checking on a kiosk, passengers who pose nil or a negligible threat will be processed quickly through metal detectors and their carry-on bags will be X-rayed.
“The equipment will be enhanced by AR Trace Detection features and turned into automatic systems to speed up the process. AR Challenges has proposed an RFID sticker (costing 10 cents) that will enhance the efficiency and provide separate screening procedures,” said Sela. ■

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