A 12 month trial of eGate technology will be conducted at Brisbane International Airport later this year by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS). “Subject to the trial being successful, ACBPS will pursue full implementation of the preferred technology and process at all eight Australian international airports”, Senator Michaelia Cash, the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, announced.
The technology required for the rollout will be the subject of an Approach to Market, a spokesperson for the ACBPS has confirmed to Intermedium. “The current contract and tender arrangements only apply to the two-year automated departures trial. Additional eGates will be procured under a new request for tender”.
The 2014-15 Budget announced the formation of the Australian Border Force agency comprising both the ACBPS and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Given that Minister Cash made the announcement of the trial in the lead up to the Budget, it is unlikely that the impending Machinery of Government changes will impede the trial – particularly as the government requires agencies to continue on their path of staff reductions.
The next generation eGate technology being trialled to process travellers departing Australia uses the latest passport validation, biometric algorithm face matching, and gate technologies. If proven, this technology will allow almost all travellers to self-process their departure from Australia.
The automation of border processing would be one way in which Customs will cope with a reduction in its workforce by 600 FTE over the forward estimates, Michael Pezzullo, the Chief Executive Officer of the ACBPS, told a Senate Estimates hearing in November 2013.
Pezzullo revealed that ACBPS is facing estimated budget cuts of $733 million over the forward estimates, equating to a 15 percent funding reduction per annum.
The rollout of the eGates is just one part of ACBPS’ 2013-18 Blueprint for Reform to modernise its largely manual processes.
The agency also intends to expand the use of its current SmartGate technology to further reduce the reliance on manual processes. SmartGate, first announced in the 2005 Budget, is an automated border clearance system which gives eligible passengers and crew arriving into Australia’s eight international airports the option to self-process through passport control.
According to Senator Cash, the first stage of the eGate trial involving a feasibility study in a laboratory environment is now well progressed. The live trial at Brisbane International Airport is due to start in July 2014.
“An automated processing solution when departing Australia will provide very similar benefits to those that travellers and officers currently experience in arrivals using SmartGate.
Making the clear link for the dependence ACPBS will have on the eGate technology to reduce its reliance on Customs Officers to process arrivals, Cash said “It will also facilitate the effective deployment of Customs and Border Protection officers to more highly skilled activities and provide a more streamlined experience for travellers”.
IBM/VisionBox and Morpho were the two successful vendors selected from a panel following an approach to market last year. IBM/VisionBox’s contract with ACBPS, worth $258,000, is for a trial of its VB I-Match Automated Border Control Gate whilst Morpho’s contract, worth $317,125, is for the trial of its Morphoway eGate technology.
An ACBPS spokesperson told Intermedium that the total cost of the two year study would be $8.4 million over the years 2013-14 and 2014-15.
Pending the success of the trial, it is expected that the eGates will be fully rolled out by 2017 and available to process some of the 20 million travellers departing through International Airports each year. However, the ACBPS spokesperson said that “The final cost of each eGate will not be determined until the preferred production configuration is determined through the Brisbane trial.”
“The number of eGates at each airport will depend on factors such as eGate processing speed, passenger numbers and presentation rates at each airport and will be informed by the Brisbane trial outcomes” the spokesperson said.
According to the Blueprint, Customs needs around 90 percent of arriving travellers to be able to use eGate technologies to manage annual traveller growth. January 2014 marked a record for the SmartGate with over 500,000 passengers accessing the system.
Mobile and web-based self-service facilities such as eTRS for the Tourist Refund Scheme are currently also in development.
Pezzullo indicated in Estimates that Customs sees itself continuing to develop automated systems as its financial capacity to provide support for manual processing decreases.
The 2014-15 Budget announced the formation of the Australian Border Force agency comprising both the ACBPS and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Given that Minister Cash made the announcement of the trial in the lead up to the budget, it is unlikely that the impending Machinery of Government changes will impede the trial – particularly as the government requires agencies to continue on their path of staff reductions.