Customs to deploy new Border Clearance System

Technology to support increase in yearly traveller numbers from 30 million today to 50 million by 2023

Australian Customs and Border Protection Services (ACBPS) will roll out a new Border Clearance System with control room capabilities that support an increasing number of biometric eGates.

Federal Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison last month said the government is investing $700 million over the next six years to modernise Australia’s border management system. People entering Australia will be checked against a biometrics database to determine if they have undeclared criminal convictions.

Customs on Thursday morning said it will issue a request for tender (RFP) early in the 2014/15 financial year for a technology and system integration services supplier for the Border Clearance System.

This comes after revelations in The Australian this week that a failure in Customs' intelligence sharing allowed a convicted terrorist to leave Australia. His passport didn't contain any biometric data.

The system will initially be used for traveller clearance processing across all Australian air and sea ports, Customs said in a document announcing the planned RFP.

Customs said it was trialing next-generation biometric eGates, which the clearance system will build upon. Customs will deploy a new console for remote, real-time monitoring and control of these gates.

Read: Customs to automate departures through a process similar to SmartGates for arrivals and tap into advanced analytics.

“One typical approach to the requirement is SCADA [supervisory control and data access] technology, which is used in industrial control room settings, but this is by no means the only solution,” Customs said.

The system will include advanced planning and scheduling of Customs officers and assets to manage the border clearance process for arriving and departing travellers.

These officers – who use geographical information systems and hand held devices – provide clearance services at major and regional airports, cruise ship terminals, and on commercial vessels and pleasure craft.

The system will provide integrated process and case management capabilities to automate the management of traveller clearance including visa and passport issuance, trip planning, and border processing and interventions.

“Case management capabilities, fully integrated with process management will support more complex processing, where human decision making is required,” Customs said.

Lastly, Customs wants to improve identity management to enable border control agencies to get a more accurate picture of the people it deals with during processing while creating an advanced analytics capability.

“This means the ability to run advanced analytics on live transactional data for risk assessment purposes,” Customs said.

This capability would let the agency identify unique identities, based on characteristics and associations, and split and merge identities when required.

The system will also enable the agency to create a consolidated repository of identity-related information, integrate it with federated systems, and support replication and transactional synchronisation across systems.

Customs expects traveller numbers to grow from 30 million yearly now to 50 million by 2023. The agency also said there is continuing pressure on border agencies’ operating budgets, higher risk due to increased volume of travellers, and static port physical capacity with fewer new ports.

"This means that more travellers need to be managed through the border process, through the same physical space, without significant additional operational expenditure," Customs said.

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