A R20m (€1.3m) automatic border control system is going live at Cape Town International Airport in March next year and, once functioning effectively, will be rolled out at OR Tambo International and King Shaka International Airport.
Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) COO, Fundi Sithebe, says the joint project by Acsa and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is aimed at operational efficiency and saving passengers time. Instead of having their passports checked by an immigration officer, passengers will scan their passport at an electronic gate.
Sithebe says the DHA is currently developing a biometrics system using passengers' fingerprints to verify their identification. Until the SA e-passports are finalised in June/July, passengers will use their existing SA passports and undergo fingerprint scans when passing through the e-gates, she explains. Acsa’s function is to procure and maintain the e-gates and interface with the DHA’s biometrics system.
The project will initially focus on SA passengers. The DHA will then begin the development process of the ‘Trusted Traveller’ programme for international passengers, which will include interaction and agreements with other international government agencies. Upon completion of this, further enhancements with Acsa will be done to accommodate all travellers passing through e-emigration/e-immigration processes.
Sithebe says, faced with increasing arrivals and long queues at passport control, Acsa is accelerating the digitising of its airports. In doing so, it is working closely with Iata’s Fast Travel Programme. In time, automated processes will be available at key points, including check-in, baggage, document check, flight re-booking, and self-boarding.
Meanwhile, Cape Town International Airport has invested R6m (€384 567) to train 30 cadets as immigration officers to help ease long queues at passport control, says Spokesperson, Deidre Davids.