Sunday, 17 July 2016

New facility to detect biological, nuclear substances at Singapore's ports

By Ng Huiwen, The Straits Times, 16 Jul 2016

Terrorists could strike on Singapore soil using non-conventional weapons, such as chemical and nuclear agents, and that is why the country has taken steps to strengthen its border security, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.

"Many of them (currently) attack with rifles, bombs, suicide bombs and so on," he said.

"But we also have to plan for a time when terrorists can get access to weapons of a different nature - nuclear, biological, radiological... It's not far-fetched."

Mr Shanmugam was speaking at the opening of the Protective, Analytical and Assessment Facility (PAAF), which will use advanced technologies to better detect chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) substances at Singapore's ports.

Located at the Pasir Panjang Scanning Station at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority's (ICA) Ports Command, it houses six laboratories, including one specialised in analysing radiological and nuclear materials.

In his opening address, Mr Shanmugam noted that countries in the region have "shown interest in obtaining nuclear power for peaceful means", but this may increase the risk of such materials "falling into the wrong hands".

The facility will allow the ICA to conduct stringent and prompt checks on suspicious cargo, which will be directed to the facility from the ports without impeding the flow of trade. The three-storey building, which has a space of about 2880 sq m, is the largest among existing facilities at the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints. No cost details have been given.

Front-line officers and scientists will be able to use latest customised equipment to conduct on-site and real-time analysis at the facility, which was first announced in 2011.

The PAAF will be a key element of Singapore's overall counter-terrorism strategy.

Mr Shanmugam noted that the region is now very much on terrorists' radar, as seen by the fact that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) now pushes out Malay language videos and a newspaper for its supporters in South-east Asia.

Attacks have also happened in the region, even during Ramadan, which is meant to be the holy month of peace and compassion.

After Thursday night's attack in Nice, France, which saw a lorry crash into a crowd and kill more than 80 people, he added: "(Attacks) happen every week and we're no longer surprised. It's a question of when and where... So we just have to prepare ourselves."

The facility also houses a Scientific Demonstration Suite that will allow Home Team officers to familiarise themselves with CBRNE materials.

Using multimedia displays and interactive exhibits, including a scent station, officers will be able to pick up skills to identify and mitigate such threats.

It also has an assessment centre designed to hold two 45-foot trucks for inspection. This can also be used to test new technology and hold larger equipment.

Capabilities of PAAF
By Ng Huiwen, The Straits Times, 16 Jul 2016

If a suspicious cargo is detected at Singapore's ports, sample swabs will be taken and sent to the Protective, Analytical and Assessment Facility (PAAF) for further tests.

Advanced border laboratories

Officers and scientists work in six laboratories in the facility to test and identify chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) materials.

Assessment centre

Designed to fit two 45-foot trucks for inspection and can be used to test new technology.

Scientific Demonstration Suite

Home Team officers will be able to learn about the threats of CBRNE materials and how to detect them through visual displays.

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