Nov 20, 2011

New explosive detection technology on the way

By 2013 advanced explosive detection equipment will be installed at the nation’s international airports, eliminating the need for passengers to discard containers of duty free alcohol, shampoo, soft drink and hair product from their carry-on luggage before boarding their flight.

At the moment, Australians flying overseas cannot carry any container larger than 100 millilitres (ml) and are obliged to hand them over prior to screening.

This easing of restrictions will no doubt be widely welcomed.  It will make air travel easier and less stressful for passengers as well as free airport security staff to better focus on their core screening responsibilities without the distraction of having to confiscate items from people’s bags.

Every month at Sydney International Airport alone, some 1,250 Duty Free items (e.g. perfume and alcohol) and approximately 8,000 non valuable items (e.g. water bottles) are surrendered to screening staff.

While preventing acts of terrorism remains our number one priority, we’re also determined to minimise the disruption and inconvenience experienced by passengers as they transit through our major airports, including by deploying the latest technologies.

Approval of the new multi-view explosive detection x-ray machines and bottled liquid scanners follows the successful trials at Sydney and Melbourne airports late last year which found them to be effective at detecting the ‘signature’ of liquid explosives within seconds.

Involving more than 7,000 passengers, these trials were done in cooperation with authorities from both the US and Great Britain.

Ever since the restrictions were first imposed in 2006 in response to the emerging threat posed to aircraft by liquid explosives, authorities both here and overseas have been working hard to find a technology-based solution which would allow them to be eased and ultimately lifted.

Despite the latest evolution in aviation security technology, that work continues.

While at this stage the inbound LAGs restrictions will remain in place, the Government continues to work within the international community to achieve further relaxations.

The LAGs trial was flagged and funded as part of the Gillard Labor Government’s $200 million aviation security package announced in February 2010.  To remain one step ahead of those who seek to perpetrate an act of terrorism will require the use of new technologies, better training and greater international cooperation.  No single measure alone will be enough.

A copy of the final report on the Joint Liquid, Aerosol and Gels Trial 2010 can be downloaded from: www.infrastructure.gov.au.