Screening device to replace the pat-down at harbors

A new security measure will be added to Hawai‘i’s four main harbors by the end of next year, state officials said yesterday.

Travelers will go through a “non-invasive” passenger screening system capable of detecting improvised explosive devices and other potential threats, said Michael Formby, deputy director of the state Department of Transportation, Harbors Division.

“This machinery replaces the pat-down,” he said. “There will be no more physical touching.”

The radiation-free imaging system will be installed at Honolulu, Kahului, Hilo and Nawiliwili harbors.

“Even though we’re a small isolated community, we have to also be diligent in looking for dangerous items,” state Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua‘i/Ni‘ihau, said.

Gov. Linda Lingle on Monday released $296,983 to construct the systems. The funds represent the state’s matching share of a federal Homeland Security grant of $890,947, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

Given the strong federal match, it makes sense for the state to come up with its portion, Hooser said.

“If we had to provide the entire amount, it might not be a priority,” he said.

The funds were appropriated in 2004.

The system will relay information to the Honolulu Harbor Surveillance Command Information System, State Law Enforcement Coalition at the state capitol and State Civil Defense.

The initial core technology was developed by Trex for the U.S. government to detect suicide bombs. Sago Systems, a Trex subsidiary, was created in 2005 to solely focus on the commercialization and sales of the security products, said Linda Jameson, vice president of business development for Trex and Sago.

“Hawai‘i is leading the nation in port security,” she said. “It’s a big issue.”

The system will be able to detect metallic and non-metallic weapons on passengers.

Anything that is blocking the body’s natural heat — from guns and knives to cell phones — will appear as an actual outline of the object, Jameson said.

“It’s much different and much safer than what you see at a typical airport,” she said.

Security personnel will instantly have an idea of what they are dealing with, Jameson said.

The system also has an algorithm in place that keeps body parts from being revealed, she said.

Passengers will go through the normal screening process and if they trigger that alarm, instead of being pulled aside to be frisked by security personnel, they will pass through this new system, Formby said.

“Port security is a top priority for our state and nation,” Lingle said in the news release. “This system will strengthen security at Hawai‘i’s passenger ports, enhance our ability to respond to threats and help us to save lives and protect property.”

Construction is scheduled to begin in November and be completed by December 2009.

• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or neagle@kauaipubco.com

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