Customs to pilot new border clearance system

Automated, biometric future for travellers.

The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service is preparing to appoint a supplier for a pilot of a new border clearance system in an effort to provide legitimate travellers with a faster and less onerous immigration processing experience.

Customs has been tasked with modernising its legacy IT systems and therefore its end-to-end border clearance capabilities as part of the Government’s focus on border security.

Its first step will be to introduce a new traveller clearance system – which will ascertain whether travellers are eligible to enter Australia through its air and sea ports.

The agency will embark on a proof of concept late this year and expects to have determined the feasibility of a solution by mid-February 2015.

A successful traveller clearance system would later be expanded to include clearance processing for vessels and cargo, Customs revealed.

It plans to run two proofs of concept side by side with at least two different suppliers to trial technology and implementation, which will inform the specifications of a subsequent request for bids.

The department’s plans are a result of expected growth in traveller numbers over the next ten years – which are forecast to rise from 30 million to 50 million annually by 2023  – as well as continued pressure on border agency operating budgets. Cargo transactions are similarly expected to rise to 97.9 million items per year by 2017, from a current rate of  31.8 million.

“This means that many more travellers need to be managed through the border process, through the same physical space, without significant additional operational expenditure,” the agency revealed in tender documents.

The new border clearance system will offer four key capabilities: planning and scheduling; integrated process automation and case management; identity resolution and master data management; and a console for the remote monitoring and controlling of biometric eGates – which the agency is currently trialling.

In its quest for intelligent traveller processing, Customs has outlined three “pillars” of its vision: a streamlined end-to-end business model with low contact for legitimate travellers; sustainable and smooth port operations; and an optimal mix of people and automation.

It wants to eliminate the “repeat and redundant contact” legitimate travellers are forced to enter into with border agencies, and replace it with an “intelligence-led, risk-driven” approach to identifying illegitimate travellers based on self-processing eGates.

“This streamlines the border crossing for the traveller and reduces unnecessary workload on the border control agencies.”

Customs plans to use a number of its existing systems in the proof of concept, including its Websphere-based enterprise service bus, its Airwatch mobile device management technology, its DB2 database technology, and Operational Decision Manager profiling engine.

The clearance system will build on Customs’ current trial of next-generation biometric electronic gates. It has been testing Vision Box and Morpho technology for several months under a two-year, $8.4 million trial of eGate technology.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has previously signalled his desire for an automated border processing system, which would allow travellers to move through Australian passport checking processes in under a minute.

Legitimate travellers should be able to breeze an airport through with minimal interaction, with border officials free to intervene on identities who generate an alert, under the planned approach.

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