22 July 2015 – SARS Commissioner launches Customs cargo scanner at Cape Town Harbour

Pretoria, 22 July 2015  As part of efforts by the South African Revenue Services (SARS) to combat illicit trade activities, a new high-technology cargo container scanner was officially launched at Cape Town Harbour today, by SARS Commissioner, Mr Tom Moyane.

The scanner is the second of its kind to be acquired by SARS Customs in its fight against the illicit economy which robs South Africa of millions of rands in unpaid duties and taxes every year and puts the security of our citizens at risk.

The use of non-intrusive inspection tools is part of SARS’s strategic plan to clamp down on non-complaint behaviour, while still facilitating legitimate trade.

In 2014 a brand new state-of-the art cargo scanner was introduced in Durban harbour, replacing the previous mobile scanner which had been in operation since 2008. On 22 June 2015, Cape Town’s very first cargo scanner became operational; while the refurbished Durban mobile scanner is scheduled for deployment at Beitbridge in December 2015. Beitbridge border is where Sars is finding a high prevalence in cigarette smuggling.

With the new high-tech scanners in Durban and Cape Town, SARS is doing end-to-end integrated cargo scanning for the first time. In other words, our risk engine, case management system and scanner software is now integrated into one solution that is automated and real-time, with the whole process recorded on the SARS system from beginning to end.

The new cargo scanners use X-ray technology with dual radiation scanning and can show the difference between 40 different types of materials, e.g. aluminium, steel, plastic, organic, etc. They can even pick up 1mm copper wire and can scan through up to 380mm of solid steel, so there is very little that can be hidden.

The new scanners also have a radiation portal, which will give Customs the ability to check whether any radioactive material is being smuggled.

From a business perspective, if Customs were to unpack suspicious containers, three containers could be done a day. SARS is now aiming to do a hundred inspections a day on a highly targeted and non-intrusive basis. From start to finish, SARS can scan in under 12 minutes.

This new system also helps increase auditability. Due to it being highly integrated and centrally available over the SARS network, Customs has the ability to investigate cases, re-investigate cases, check for quality control, interrogate findings, and can also determine who did what. These are the big benefits.

For every single scan that Customs does, they open a case, do the scan, verify and come up with a result, generate a marked up image, and then manage the findings (in the case of a hit) in a very structured way through other inspection processes, such as stops, unpack, tailboard or impound.

The new integrated scanning process also eliminates fraud, theft and bribery, because all actions are recorded as cases.

The same principle applies to Customs’ new baggage scanners, which are currently being installed at 10 different Customs offices around the country.

The first new baggage scanners were installed at the Durban Mail Centre and King Shaka International Airport in June 2015, followed by Beitbridge and Maseru Bridge earlier this month. Over the next few months, new baggage scanners will also have been installed at Cape Town International Airport, Cape Town Mail Centre, OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg Mail Centre, Kopfontein on the border with Botswana, and Lebombo on the border with Mozambique. 

Since the new Durban scanner became operational in August 2014, there have been over 9000 examinations to date. Of these, there have been 188 successes. In other words, the the scan has identified cargo in which there has been non-declaration or false declaration, misclassification of goods, or prohibited and restricted goods smuggled in through false compartments and other concealment methods.

Two examples of successes using the Durban cargo scanner recently include: 

  • On 5 June 2015, goods from Hong Kong were declared as Mirrors and Glass mosaics. The scanner image revealed various other goods and the truck was therefore stopped for a full inspection. The physical inspection revealed undeclared goods including sex toys. Penalties and forfeiture were then issued to the client.
  •  On 12 June 2015, goods from Sweden were declared as glass sheets and fibres. However the scanner image revealed goods of a differing shape and density packed amongst the declared goods. A physical inspection revealed acoustic roof structures and a missing invoice which resulted in the Customs value being under-declared by R856 000 and VAT being under paid by R131 833.

Since the Cape Town cargo scanner became operational one month ago (on 22 June 2015), they have scanned 196 containers, with 12 successes in which an additional amount of R62 828 in unpaid Customs duties, VAT and penalties was collected.

“Up until 2008, cargo inspections were mainly intrusive by nature, meaning that containers would have to be physically unpacked.  SARS saw the great potential of implementing non-intrusive scanning devices (NISD) for the following reasons,” Mr Moyane said:

  • “In response to global developments regarding trade supply chain security and trade facilitation;
  • Improvement of anti-smuggling capability and borderline enforcement through the detection, control and prevention of the movement of prohibited and restricted goods;
  • Enhanced revenue collection through greater compliance,”

“By ensuring that contraband and illicit goods do not pass through the Port of Cape Town, SARS is aiding the global fight against smuggling and other illegal activities associated with the Port environment. By enforcing honest trade, a strong message is sent to participants in organised crime, port stakeholders and SARS officials alike, that compliance is essential and demanded by SARS in the contribution to the social and financial well-being of the Republic.” Mr Moyane concluded.