The much-awaited inline baggage screening system (ILBS), which will eliminate the need to get checked-in baggage scanned by X-ray machines before they are deposited at check-in counters, became operational at the Kolkata airport on Tuesday with the soft launch of 3D scanning on one of the three portals in the international wing. The two other portals in the wing will become operational later this week, followed by soft launch of portals in the domestic wing next week.
“The ILBS facility will be completely operational in the international wing by February 17-18 and in the domestic wing by February 24,” Kolkata airport director Kaushik Bhattacharjee said after the launch of the system linked to portal H on Tuesday evening. Only one of the eight portals that caters to GoAir and AirAsia India passengers will get ILBS later.
Around 160 passengers on the Kolkata-Dhaka IndiGo flight were the first to avail themselves of the new system. The airline staff directed the passengers who arrived to board flight 6E 1858 to head for the check-in desks, bypassing the standalone X-ray machine.
Incidentally, the airport’s international wing had ILBS for two years before it was decommissioned for upgrade to the latest Computer Tomography X-ray (CTX) explosive detection devices last October. For the domestic wing, this will be the first time that passengers exiting Kolkata will get the facility.
Of the 250-odd checked in bags that were scanned in the CTX machines on Tuesday, 30% were ‘rejected’ by the device that is equipped to identify possible threats in a bag’s contents. The X-ray images of these bags were then checked by a screener, an airport employee, and the bags were then passed through standalone X-ray machines in the terminal basement before they were cleared for loading on the flight.
“The soft launch of portal H where a flight’s bags were used to check the robustness of the machine as well as proficiency of screeners went off smoothly. We will use the portal on Wednesday as well and see if the initial rejection rate can be reduced. Thereafter, we plan to do a soft launch of portal F with an Emirates flight that has twice the capacity with the requirement to clear nearly 500 bags,” Bhattacharjee said.
Security experts said the rejection rate would go down as the screeners acquire experience and learn to be more discerning while examining the X-ray images to determine whether the item flagged off is a threat or not.
“The CTX registered baggage explosive detection system will flag off many suspicious items. Most of them are harmless stuff, primarily edible items typical to Indian cuisine like pickles. Screeners need to learn what to override through experience. Till that happens, there will be higher rejections, requiring passengers to be summoned to the basement to explain what the suspect item is or open the bag for inspection,” the security expert said.
The primary job of screeners will be to analyse the X-ray image to see if any item is flagged off as threat by the CTX machine and then decide whether it is a threat or not. If satisfied, the bag is sent to the accepted line. Or else, it goes through a third level of check where the screener has access to trace detection system and standalone X-ray machine. If still dissatisfied, it will move to level 4, where the passenger will be called upon to open the bag and check the suspected item. On Tuesday, none of the bags reached the last level. But both the airport operator and the airlines said they would be happy to cut down the rejection rate at level 2 itself where the screener takes a decision to either allow the bags to go through or reject them based on the X-ray image from the CTX machine.
Source: Times of India