By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
GOVERNMENT and aviation officials yesterday announced the official launch of 20 new Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks at the Lynden Pindling International Airport, which would allow for US-bound passengers to be processed “up to four times faster”.
Along with the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, the kiosks were funded by a joint partnership between the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD), the Ministry of Tourism, Nassau Paradise Island’s Promotion Board and the Airline Operator’s Committee.
Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna Martin yesterday called the launch a “true indicator of partnership, internationally and locally”.
“The successful implementation of this new technology at our country’s major gateway speaks to The Bahamas government’s commitment to the future growth of the aviation sector and by extension, our primary industry of tourism,” she said. “In order to remain competitive, we must continue to seek out innovative solutions like APC to enhance the functionality of LPIA. As the airport becomes more efficient, we can build the case for establishing LPIA as a viable regional and domestic hub.”
According to officials, Border Xpress APC is a self-service kiosk technology provided by the Vancouver Airport Authority, which enables US and Canadian passport holders and “other eligible travellers” to complete a portion of the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) inspection process electronically, expediting the border clearance process.
Aside from US and Canadian passport holders, passengers eligible to use the new technology include “all US lawful permanent residents and Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) approved passport holders - international travellers from 38 countries not requiring US entry visas for stays of 90 days or less”.
The new system does not require travellers to complete a US customs declaration form, as all questions are answered on the computer’s touch screen.
Instead, travellers only need to follow the on-screen instructions to scan their passport, answer the customs declaration questions, have their photo taken and receive a confirmation receipt, which they then show to a CBP officer to finalise processing.
It is expected that the kiosks will greatly reduce waiting times, improve the airport’s efficiency and ultimately provide a more enjoyable experience for the millions of visitors that pass through the US pre-clearance facility at the airport.
Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe touted the launch as an “outstanding” move for the country.
“When this was first discussed with us, we saw the need because we’re seeing the flow of business to The Bahamas, and at times we have so much congestion,” he said.
“But we have to alleviate that because that works negatively in the tourism offering, so what we have to ensure that the visitor can move very quickly. This technology adds to it. Now, to determine where we are in the Caribbean is great because we have the greatest amount in our facility. (In comparison to) Houston International, we have an equal amount - they have 20 and we have 20. So it tells you we’re back in the game and we’re happy to compete at that level.”
“APC will greatly improve our ability to process passengers through the airport,” NAD President and CEO Vernice Walkine added. “The demand for the destination continues to grow and with more than 3.2 million passengers travelling through LPIA on an annual basis, we want to ensure that their experience at our airport is a positive one.”
According to officials, APCs are available in only one other airport in the Caribbean. Additionally, LPIA is the second international airport to offer APC technology.
The total cost of the kiosks was a little over $1m, according to Ms Walkine.
In addition to yesterday’s launch, six new workers were also hired by NAD as APC Ambassadors to assist travellers with using the kiosks.
According to officials, the new technology required “extensive training” for NAD’s IT department on the “installation and maintenance” of the kiosks, and five “Document Verification Officer (DVO)” podiums provided by Vancouver Airport Authority’s Innovative Solutions team.