Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Sangster Int'l Airport gets border-crossing machines

Published:Friday | December 12, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill (right) cuts the ribbon to launch the new automated immigration kiosks at the Sangster International Airport yesterday morning. Sharing in the occasion are Jennifer McDonald, head of the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency; Senator Noel Sloley (left), chairman of Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF); and Clyde Harrison, TEF Executive Director . -Photo by Janet Silvera

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:Days ahead of the start of the winter tourist season, the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) unveiled 10 multimillion-dollar automated immigration kiosks at the Sangster International Airport in the tourism capital yesterday morning.

Jamaica is the first Caribbean country to install the border-crossing machines.

Financed by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), the cutting-edge border-control machines have already processed more than 5,000 incoming passengers at the Montego Bay airport and by the end of December is expected to meet the needs of an additional 23,000 persons.

Yesterday's unveiling took place just two weeks after the agency launched the equipment at the Norman Manley International Airport. The total cost of the project is estimated at US$2 million, the TEF has confirmed.

"The introduction of these automated immigration kiosks is the latest step in an overall plan, and they are designed to reduce immigration processing time to less than a minute," said Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill.

This compares favourably to the usual average of two minutes when travellers interact directly with an immigration officer.

'POSITIVE STEP'

Fortuitously, McNeill said, "this positive step comes just days before we begin what promises to be a very successful winter tourist season".

The automated immigration kiosks or automated border-crossing (ABC) kiosks are complemented by the use of an advanced passenger information system (APIS) introduced by PICA.

Pointing out the difference the new machines will make to Jamaica's tourism sector, Paul Houghton - president of the Americas region at SITA, the company that provides software solution to the aviation industry - said all international passengers may use the kiosks.

"This is a first, and it is unique," he said.

He noted that advanced technology allows the machines to capture the facial features without any movement of the cameras and users don't require an ePassport as in other cases.

"The machine captures both video and stills (photographs), as well as behavioural pattern," he added, stating it was intuitive.

PICA said one of the setbacks passengers will face is the fact that not every airline entering the island is compliant with the APIS, and as a result, some passengers will not be able to take advantage of the kiosks.

Passengers who will be invited to use the ABC kiosks include:

Jamaican nationals with a valid passport;

Visitors who possess ePassports with biometric information (via embedded chip);

CARICOM nationals;

UK, Canada and USA citizens with machine-readable travel document.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com