IN late 2019, Solomon Ports decided to buy a mobile X-Ray machine, not because every other regional ports has got one but because it would greatly assist in clearing in-bound overseas cargo.
The $16 million machine was built by ‘Nuctech Company’ of China. It uses the state of the art imaging technology to analyse contents of containers as well as vehicles and is one of the most sophisticated mobile container scanner models available in the market.
Shortly after it was commissioned by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on 10th February 2020, Solomon Ports was advised to handover the machine to the Customs Division of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury.
Today, this state of the art machine is gathering dust at the Point Cruz Wharf because Customs appears to have refused to use it, according to Solomon Ports’ Chief Executive Officer, Eranda Kotelawala.
In response to a tip off that the X-Ray machine has not been working since last year, Mr. Kotelawala said: the information is incorrect.
“It is working. The reason why it is not being seen doing what it is supposed to do is because Customs has refused to use it. Customs should realise that by giving away the X-Ray machine to it, it is a loss to Solomon Ports.”
Mr. Kotelawala said at the commissioning ceremony that “…one of the main reasons for acquiring the new machine was to tackle the spread of illicit drugs and tobacco.
He said the strategy was to target the supply of illegal products coming into the country with a view of disrupting the supply chain.
“The illicit tobacco problem is also very much a global one, now it has become a local problem, driven by many importers with clever concealment of cigarettes inside containers. The illicit drug trade is a huge global business and the illicit drug trade in Solomon Islands is becoming very significant among the challenges we jointly face,” Mr. Kotelawala said at the time.
Prime Minister Sogavare said at the commissioning that he was deeply impressed, congratulating Solomon Ports for the “vision that underpins this investment that will bring huge benefit to customs and agricultural quarantine.
“Let me thank the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Solomon Ports for taking the country to a new era in enhancing the efficiency and security of our port operations in Honiara through this magnificent technology.
“I am confident that this technology which needs to be expanded to our other international ports will greatly assist the efficiency and effectiveness of port operations, revenue collections and strengthen our bio-security capabilities,” Mr. Sogavare said.
By ALFRED SASAKO