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230 more automated lanes at Singapore's border checkpoints planned for 2024

LaksaNews

Myth
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SINGAPORE: Singapore will install a further 230 automated lanes at its border checkpoints this year, on top of the 160 added in 2023, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority on Tuesday (Feb 13).

This comes as Singapore saw 192.8 million travellers clearing its checkpoints in 2023, an increase of 84 per cent or 88 million more people compared with 2022.

During the school and public holidays period, traveller volume at the land checkpoints exceeded pre-COVID levels, reaching about 440,000 daily, ICA said in its annual statistics report.

The installation of more lanes will cater to the increasing number of travellers, it said.

Immigration clearance will also be more seamless, with ICA to introduce its "next generation" Automated Border Control System (ABCS) this year.

The authority said it aims to allow all foreign visitors, regardless of nationality, to clear immigration using Singapore's automated lanes without the need for prior enrolment.

These ABCS lanes, which will progressively replace the existing automated lanes and manual counters at all checkpoints, will provide Singapore residents and departing visitors with contactless clearance, meaning that they do not need to present their passports.

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Under the current Automated Clearance Initiative introduced in May 2022, passport holders from selected jurisdictions are permitted to use selected automated lanes to clear immigration without prior enrolment. However, they must still present their passports.

Automated immigration clearance is also currently an option for travellers in wheelchairs and family groups of up to four people via the special assistance lanes (SALs), said ICA.

In 2023, eight such lanes were installed at both the arrival and departure bus halls of Woodlands Checkpoint, with another eight at Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore. A total of 42 special assistance lanes were also introduced at Terminals 1, 2 and 3 of Changi Airport.

ICA also noted that more than two-thirds of travellers arriving in Singapore via Changi Airport can now clear immigration via the automated lanes. This is compared with one-third in the pre-pandemic years.

Automated clearance has also become the default for bus travellers, with the installation of more than 90 automated lanes at the bus halls of Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints.

This has allowed ICA to clear about 8,500 travellers per hour during departure peak periods, as compared with 5,000 pre-pandemic.

As a result of faster clearance, ICA said more travellers are choosing to cross the Causeway by bus, with about 45 per cent of travellers passing through Woodlands Checkpoint in December 2023 doing so.

Woodlands Checkpoint will be redeveloped in several phases over the next 10 to 15 years. Work is scheduled to begin in 2025 and once fully complete, the new checkpoint will be about five times the current size with ICA aiming to cut the average clearance time from one hour to 15 minutes during peak periods.

FORGED, TAMPERED TRAVEL DOCUMENTS​


As traveller volume increases, ICA said it has remained vigilant against those who use fraudulent travel documents.

The number of travellers detected with forged or tampered travel documents more than doubled, rising from 21 in 2022 to 65 in 2023, said ICA. Most of the cases involved foreign passports with altered or counterfeit biodata pages.

A multi-modal biometric clearance system has been put in place to counter such attempts.

Since July 2020, all automated lanes and manual counters at Singapore's checkpoints have been equipped with iris and facial scanners.

The concurrent use of these two primary biometric identifiers, in addition to fingerprints as a secondary identifier, provides a "highly accurate" way of authenticating the identities of travellers, added ICA.

Meanwhile, there was a slight dip in the number of multiple identity cases detected at the checkpoints, decreasing 0.9 per cent from 441 instances in 2022 to 437 cases in 2023.

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The increase in travel volume last year also saw a 23 per cent spike in contraband smuggling attempts foiled by ICA at the checkpoints, from about 35,000 cases in 2022 to about 43,000 in 2023.

These cases included attempts to bring controlled drugs, duty-unpaid cigarettes, e-vaporises and replica guns into Singapore.

“By leveraging data analytics and maintaining vigilance on the ground, ICA officers have thwarted multiple attempts to smuggle prohibited, controlled and dutiable items into Singapore,” said ICA.

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