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Singapore to add 61 automated lanes at border checkpoints as traveller volumes surge

Singapore to add 61 automated lanes at border checkpoints as traveller volumes surge

Travellers scanning their passports at the automated counters at immigration before entering Singapore. (File photo: CNA/Marcus Mark Ramos)

SINGAPORE: Singapore's border control agency is looking to install 61 more automated lanes at checkpoints in 2023, on top of the 125 put in place last year.

This will expand "clearance capacity" for travellers, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said in its 2022 statistics report released on Friday (Feb 17).

The full resumption of international travel in 2022 led to a significant increase in traveller volume, ICA noted.

It cleared nearly 105 million travellers last year, a spike of more than 1,600 per cent from 5.9 million travellers in 2021.

"During the year-end school holidays in December, traveller volume peaked, almost returning to pre-COVID-19 levels at land checkpoints," said ICA.

ICA said it managed an "unprecedented" surge in passport applications last year, on the back of Singaporeans putting off renewing their expired passports during the pandemic's two years of travel restrictions.

More than 1.25 million passports were issued in 2022, an increase of 317.7 per cent from the 300,000 issued in the previous year.

Of the passports issued last year, 72 per cent were between May and October, ICA added.

To deal with the surge then, the agency said it deployed officers from other work units to process passport applications 24/7.

In April last year, Singapore announced that fully vaccinated travellers entering the country would no longer need to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test, in an initial step to relax border restrictions which have now been completely scrapped.

ICA's statistics report also showed that the volume of "low-value" goods - such as clothing, toys and sports equipment - that was cleared rose by over 40 per cent in 2022, “spurred by high internet usage and ease of online shopping”.

The overall volume of containers, consignments and parcels cleared in 2022 – 9.7 million – was a dip of 10.5 per cent from 2021.

ICA has also introduced paperless clearance for conventional cargo vehicles at its air and port checkpoints since January 2023. The new process - called the SG Arrival Card Cargo Module - has reduced clearance time by more than two minutes per vehicle, the agency said.

Source: CNA/cm(jo)


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