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Opening Ceremony of the Lok Ma Chau Control Point Inbound and Outbound X-ray Vehicle Inspection Buildings

11 March 2003

Mr Yue, Mr Lai, ladies and gentlemen,

It is our great honour to have the presence of all distinguished guests at the opening ceremony of the Lok Ma Chau Control Point Inbound and Outbound X-ray Vehicle Inspection Buildings. On behalf of the Customs and Excise Department (C&ED), I would like to express my warm welcome and sincere thanks to all of you.

To me, officiating at today's opening ceremony of the two buildings carries special meaning. I recall that when I was working at the Security Bureau in 1999, I had the opportunity to be involved in the approval of the installation of these two sets of highly efficient X-ray Vehicle Inspection Systems for the C&ED. At that time, in view of the increasing traffic and cargo flow at various land boundary control points in the past few years, I considered that the C&ED had a genuine need of procuring advanced and highly efficient equipment to enhance the overall Customs clearance efficiency and strengthen Customs enforcement capability in intercepting contraband at boundary control points.

This thinking was proven correct when I took up the post of the Commissioner for Customs and Excise. I have deeply recognized that the work of Customs is both diversified and heavy.

In fact, there is a close relationship between Hong Kong and the Mainland, particularly Hong Kong is in close proximity to Shenzhen and has the Pearl River Delta, commonly known as the world factory as our hinterland. The Chief Executive has clearly stated in the 2003 Policy Address the importance of improving conditions at our boundary crossings to facilitate the flow of passengers, vehicles and goods between Hong Kong and the Mainland with the view to speeding up economic co-operation with the Pearl River Delta. The C&ED is playing an important role in this respect. Indeed, we have already adopted a series of measures to facilitate speedier clearance of goods vehicles. Meanwhile, we have procured various advanced and automatic equipment to enhance our anti-smuggling enforcement capability. Today's opening of the two X-ray Vehicle Inspection Buildings represents a milestone in Customs advancement to adopt further automation in law enforcement.

You may have this question in mind, that is, what are the unique features of the Inbound and Outbound X-ray Vehicle Inspection Buildings? One distinctive feature about these two buildings is that each one is equipped with a set of most advanced X-ray Vehicle Inspection System with a maximum hourly throughput of 20 vehicles. It can instantly and clearly reveal details of even a full loaded 40-foot container truck, including any unmanifested consignment, false compartment or altered structure. Besides, no manual effort is required for moving and opening the consignment during the whole process of inspection. The two new systems will not only enhance the efficiency of cargo clearance significantly, but also increase the accuracy of inspection, hence strengthening our capability in combating smuggling activities to a large extent.

To complement the efforts of speeding up economic cooperation with the Pearl River Delta, the C&ED has proactively implemented a series of measures to streamline clearance procedures at land boundary control points to enhance clearance efficiency and improve clearance conditions so as to facilitate the interaction between Hong Kong and the Mainland. Today, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce to you some of our recent improvement measures:

Since March 2000, the C&ED has conducted a test run for the "Land Cargo Advance Clearance System", by which consignors or carriers can enjoy advance clearance service through advance submission of cargo data to the Customs. Moreover, the"Superlink China Direct" Project has been implemented since August in the same year. Under this arrangement, air transhipment cargoes, which have been cleared by Customs once at the Airport, will normally be loaded on designated trucks for land transport to the Mainland without the need for further export examination at the land boundary control point. Meanwhile, the feasibility study for Electronic Data Interchange - Road Manifest (ROMAN) was concluded. The proposed ROMAN system, if implemented, will enable advance electronic declaration of cross-border cargoes and further enhance clearance efficiency.

On the other hand, we have installed a total of 40 sets of the "Automatic Vehicle Recognition System" (AVRS) at the three land-boundary control points to replace manual input of vehicle registration numbers. Presently, the system is running smoothly and efficiently. With AVRS, Customs can reduce the clearance time for each vehicle by three seconds. Through a series of streamlined procedures, the average clearance time for a laden goods vehicle has been reduced from 45 seconds to 30 seconds and that for an empty goods vehicle has been reduced from 20 seconds to 16 seconds. The average throughput of goods vehicles has increased from about 90 to the current rate of about 120 per lane per hour. The boundary-crossing time for cross-boundary vehicles is significantly reduced.

Furthermore, in order to alleviate cross-boundary traffic congestion in the daytime, a southbound lane has been added (that is, a total of two southbound lanes and one northbound lane) for the period between midnight and 7 am at Lok Ma Chau Control Point since October 1 2002 after studies by and discussions between the HKSAR and Shenzhen authorities to diverge part of the daytime vehicles and to cope with the needs of cross-boundary traffic overnight at Lok Ma Chau Control Point. Additional lanes for goods vehicles have also been arranged as a corresponding measure at Huanggang Border Control. Regarding clearance for passengers, the Government has implemented 24-hour passenger clearance at Lok Ma Chau/Huanggang with effect from 27 January this year, making further convenience for the movement of passengers and vehicles between Hong Kong and the Mainland. Meanwhile, the Government and the Shenzhen authorities are proactively studying the construction of a cross-boundary bridge linking Lok Ma Chau and Huanggang at the Lok Ma Chau Control Point with a view to further improving the cross-boundary traffic condition.

With the completion and coming into operation of these two X-ray Vehicle Inspections Buildings, the second phase of Lok Ma Chau Control Point expansion will also be completed soon. By then, the cross-boundary facilities as well as the clearance of passengers and goods at the Lok Ma Chau Control Point will see significant improvements. The C&ED will also be able to further meet its performance pledge of providing more efficient and speedy clearance services to the public and the cross-boundary transport industry by enhancing its capability in handling passengers, vehicles and goods crossing the boundary.

Finally, I take this opportunity to express my heart-felt thanks to the Architectural Services Department, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, and all the people involved in the construction of these two X-ray Vehicle Inspection Buildings. Your professional advice, detailed planning and active participation have rendered great assistance in our Department's commitment to enhancing working efficiency and public service through the application of advanced technology.

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