New luggage scanners installed at Taiwan airports in fight against ASF

KAOHSIUNG (CNA) – Two X-ray machines have been installed at Kaohsiung International Airport and one at Tainan Airport in southern Taiwan to facilitate scanning of all hand luggage brought into the country, as Taiwanese authorities step up their efforts to keep African swine fever (ASF) at bay.

The new luggage scanners were put into operation yesterday with the aim of minimizing passengers’ waiting time at Customs, Kaohsiung Customs officials said.

Before the new machines were installed at the Kaohsiung airport, the inspection of hand luggage was being carried out manually by about 20 staff members, according to an official at the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine.

However, with an arriving passenger volume of about 8,000 per day at the Kaohsiung airport, congestion was building up during peak travel hours, the official said, adding that the new scanners are expected to reduce the hand luggage inspection time by about two thirds.

Meanwhile, checked luggage is being transported by ground staff to the basement of the airport for scanning by a large X-ray machine, the official said.

The measures are part of the Taiwan government’s increasing efforts to prevent the entry of ASF for fear it would cripple the country’s NT$80 billion-a-year (US$2.59 billion) pig farming industry.

Other measures include increased fines for bringing in pork products from countries where there are ASF outbreaks, with first-time offenders liable to a fine of NT$200,000 and repeat offenders NT$1 million.

Offenders who fail to pay the fine are being denied entry into the country. Since Jan. 25, 10 passengers have been denied entry to Taiwan for declining to pay the fines after they were found with pork products.

In the period from Jan. 16 to March 10, there were 291 incidents of passengers trying to enter at Kaohsiung International Airport with undeclared pork products.

Currently, all hand luggage brought in by travelers from China, Hong Kong, Macao, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand is subject to Customs checks at Taiwan ports of entry, according to the Council of Agriculture.

By Chen Ja-fo and Chung Yu-chen