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S. America vehicle screening on the rise

Dec. 29, 2010 at 1:47 PM   |   Comments

RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Cargo and vehicle screenings are on the rise in Latin America amid security fears over narcotics trade and large-scale migration from the poorer countries to emergent economies of Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia.

Last month Argentina created an internal security ministry to deal with gang wars between migrants from Paraguay and other neighboring countries and local slum dwellers.

Argentina, Brazil and Chile also bought border security software and hardware, including border patrol vehicles and river craft, to deal with illegal inflows of migrants drawn to their urban centers.

Governments in Latin America came under pressure from a group representing about 230 airlines from around the world that met in Germany in November and called for tougher security checks on all cargo, whether carried overland or by air.

International Air Transport Association President Giovanni Bisagnani said existing technology could help but accused governments of taking too long to approve its use.

The alerts followed attempts to set off bombs concealed in cargo shipped from Yemen and other Middle Eastern destinations.

American Science and Engineering, Inc., a leading supplier of X-ray detection solutions, announced Wednesday it received a multimillion-dollar order from a Latin American country for its Z Portal vehicle screening system. It didn't name its customer.

The system was recently deployed by U.S. immigration authorities on southwestern borders of the United States.

AS&E said the Latin American country will deploy the Z Portal system for customs applications to safely and effectively screen cars and trucks for explosive threats, drugs and other contraband.

"The Z Portal system offers a proven high-throughput solution for customs officials to safely, efficiently, and effectively screen vehicles to find hidden threats and contraband," AS&E President and Chief Executive Officer Anthony Fabiano said.

He said the order was the first Z Portal system sold in Latin America.

"The multi-view, drive-through system will be an ideal security tool for high-traffic areas," he said.

The company says the Z Portal system is safe for drivers, operators, cargo and the environment. The screening system sells in two sizes -- one for large trucks, buses and cargo vehicles and a smaller version for passenger vehicles.

Z Portal customers include the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Abu Dhabi Customs and NATO.

AS&E has an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract from the U.S. government for multiple Z Portal vehicle screening systems to be deployed on multiple border crossings. The installation follows the successful deployment of the Z Portal system on the U.S. Southwest border in 2008.

Security threat awareness has turned body scanner and cargo screening industries into a huge business. The market potential is vast, analysts said, because only a handful of corporations and governments worldwide have adopted the advanced -- and expensive -- screening systems.

Most Latin American countries are responding to people traffic according to resources available. The International Organization for Migration said human trafficking for sexual exploitation alone generated more than $16 billion a year for criminal gangs. Figures for the trafficking of migrant labor, a problem familiar to southern U.S. states, are also believed by experts to be substantial.

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