An alarming number of shipping containers has been entering the country through the Bridgetown Port without being scanned by customs officers, leaving a gaping opening for the importation of illegal firearms, a government minister has revealed.
Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey while addressing Barbados Labour Party (BLP), St Joseph constituency branch meeting on Sunday, blamed poor stewardship by the previous administration for the problem. However, he did not reveal how many containers were currently leaving the port without being scanned.
Added to this, Attorney General Dale Marshall said cameras are to soon be added to the arsenal at the Port to provide another layer of beefed up security for the critical point of entry.
“Very soon you are going to be seeing all of the cameras at the port being replaced and more cameras in place at strategic places and although we know that people aren’t prone to evil, but just to make sure that nothing happens,” he said.
But his fellow minister, Humphrey also disclosed that when the BLP came to power last May, less than six per cent of the containers entering the country were being scanned, as there was only one functioning cargo scanner. These scanners are used to inspect and identify goods in transportation systems and are especially used for scanning intermodal freight shipping containers.
“Less than six per cent of the cargo leaving the port was being scanned. Another way to say that is that 94% was not scanned,” he said, leaving party faithful visibly concerned.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that if over 94% of the cargo leaving the port is not scanned, there is a higher propensity for something to be inside those un-scanned containers.”
He said: “We determined that we had to fix the scanners, because the port had one functional mobile scanner to scan containers, which meant that a significant portion of the cargo at the sea port would leave without being scanned.
“The Prime Minister and the Attorney General when we met on the security council, one of the directors came to me and said there was a second scanner and they had to fix it, because the Democratic Labor Party allowed that scanner to lay down for four years,” said Humphrey.
Efforts to reach the Humphrey and Home Affairs Minister, Edmund Hinkson for insight into how badly the problem is currently affecting security with just two functioning scanners were unsuccessful. However Humphrey promised that government was working towards swiftly correcting the problem.
“We are now looking at the possibility of four scanners, because we want to make sure that nothing nefarious comes through that port; nothing that can harm your children or mine, your friends and family or mine.
“We want Barbados to be the best that it can be, so we feel that we are now in a position to say that we are doing as much as we can with the resources that we have to bring order to the country,” Humphrey added
Attorney General Marshall, who chaired the political meeting, again re-emphasized his strong belief that illegal firearms had been pouring through the country’s ports.
He said, “We need to appreciate that guns of that size and in those numbers are not coming into Barbados in a little postal package. They’re coming in huge shipments. There are some times when our national security council has meetings; I leave with a headache, because the reports that we are getting are not comforting.”
While he emphasized that the war on illegal arms needed to focus on taking guns off the streets, he added that the supply of guns from “outside” needed to be cut off.
“The port is a security agency. When we came in, there were a number of cameras in the port that were not working and we asked them ‘why aren’t these cameras working? Who is watching the watchmen?’” he asked.
Nevertheless, Marshall promised that placing cameras at the port would be another priority of his administration.