We often hear or read about how Directorate General of Customs and Excise (DGCE) Indonesia successfully seizes goods that are prohibited and restricted being smuggled due to the officers’ scrutiny when checking the goods through the x-ray machine. Those who have travelled by plane or ship through the airport or seaport must have also put their belongings into the x-ray machine. How does it actually work and why must the goods go through the machine?

Wikipedia defines x-ray as a form of electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength of around 10 nanometer to 100 picometer (similar to a frequenxy of around 30 PHz to 60 EHz). In layman’s terms, x-ray is a radiation ray that can see through and visualize the inside.

X-ray was initially used for medical purposes to see the internals of human. It is often used to diagnose medical pictures and crystalography of x-ray. It is a form of a dangerous ion radiation. It was first found by a physics expert at the university of Wurzburg, Germany, Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen accidentally when he experimented with cathode ray.

It its development, x-ray machine is used not only for medical purposes but also industrial or even security purposes. It was first applied for security purposes at the government building, mall, hotel, military training complex, apartment, airport, seaport etc to help in the process of detection and identification.

 X-Ray Machine for Indonesian Customs

X-Ray Machine in Indonesian Customs

X-ray is used by DGCE to balance its service and control functions. The use of x-ray helps DGCE serve the community without disregarding the security aspect and, therefore, it could help reduce the queue of goods examination at the seaport and airport.

It is not precisely known when DGCE began to use x-ray equipment; but according to the Head of Operation Facilities IV Section, Directorate of Enforcement and investigation, Indonesian Customs begin to use x-ray in early 1990. There are a few types of x-ray used:

  1. Cabin x-ray machine. This machine is commonly used to scan packages and handcarried goods of passengers of airplane and ship.
  2. Baggage x-ray machine. This machine is usually used to scan goods of passengers of airplane and ship that are stored in the cargo.
  3. Cargo x-ray machine. This machine is used to scan goods with the volume of more than 100cm3 . It is usually used at the airport to check cargo of a plane or at the seaport to check consignments.
  4. Mobile container x-ray scanner. This machine is used to scan a container and is equipped with two modes, mobile and portal mode.
  5. Hi-Co x-ray scan. This is used to scan a container and due to its large size, it is usually placed at the seaport.
  6. Scanvan. This used to scan goods and it is easily moved to the desired place

Directorate General of Customs and Excise (DGCE) Indonesia uses the x-ray machines to control the borders such as airport, seaport, and cross-border post. While the number of x-ray machines is deemed sufficient, DGCE plans to add more machines. While all international airports where customs officers work have an x-ray machine, some seaports do not. X-ray machine is currently used only to help the physical examination of goods.

For DGCE, the use of an x-ray machine can make officers’ job easier. Nevertheless, it takes skill for the operators to identify and the result of the x-ray scans because criminals nowadays have their own clever ways in concealing forbidden goods, such as drugs

Operators analyzing the x-ray scan image are equipped with knowledge and theories of x-ray through a short course. But experience also plays an important role and, therefore, it often happens that the image analysis is done by more than one officer. It takes a few years of experience to have the necessary skills in analyzing x-ray images.

Different work units use different equipment, depending on the work environment. Officers at the airport, for example, use cargo, cabin, and baggage x-ray machines. Some, such as the Soekarno-Hatta airport, even uses mobile x-ray machine like scanvan. Head of Operation Facilities Section of Prime Customs Office of Soekarno-Hatta explained that at the Soekarno-Hatta airport, DGCE has used x-ray at the international arrival terminal and the post office. Mobile x-ray machine, such as scanvan, has also operated to reach remote area.

Currently Prime Customs Office of Soekarno-Hatta has some x-ray machines with various type and brand, however some of them are not operated anymore due to the life time of use. Since the building of Terminal 3 Ultimate, all x-ray machine in that terminal has been renewed in order to provide excellent service and optimum control. X-ray machine operator at airport shall be capable, agile, and able to cooperate with other units, for services at airports are measured in seconds.

X-ray machine used at Port of Tanjung Priok is Hi-Co Scan X-ray Container and Mobile Container Scanner X-Ray to check the containers, scanvan, and x-ray machine to check goods with tiny dimension. Besides, there is Gamma Ray.

X-ray and gamma ray that DGCE have are both in form of portal/static and mobile. For x-ray portal, DGCE have Hi-Co Scan X-ray Container. It is like a room where the container that will be checked enters into it. For the mobile x-ray, DGCE uses HCVM (Heimann Cargo Vision Mobilez0 that able to scan the container while the truck is moving. In Indonesia there are only 5 units of HCVM at some major ports, and all of them are owned by DGCE.

Gamma ray machines are only operated at Ports (Tanjung Priok, Tanjung Mas, dan Tanjung Perak) to check the export goods for those can scan faster than X-Ray. The differences between gamma ray and X-Ray are:

  1. The source of radiation, if gamma ray uses radiation from cobalt-60 while the x-ray uses electrical power that is converted into x-rays.
  2. Penetration, x-ray machines have better penetration than the gamma ray
  3. Consumption of electricity, gamma ray machine has a lower power consumption compared to the x-ray machine.
  4. Time Scan, a gamma ray scan relatively faster to the x-ray machine.

Other equipments used by Customs are:

  1. Trace detector, used to detect traces of narcotics to nanoparticles gram level
  2. Chemical identifier, used to identify the types of chemicals content

Customs stay abreast of technological developments in terms of control, but still tailored to the needs. For example, there used to be only a single view of x-ray from only one side, but now it is a dual view. Even today the technology has developed, it could be seen 360 degrees and it is possible to appear more diverse color in x-ray monitor. Not only 3 basic colors as it exists today, namely orange (organic), green (inorganic), and blue (metal).

Customs always renew the technology of x-ray machine and optimize utilization of existing x-ray machines

For the maintenance of the container scanner (hico and gamma rays) is daily checked by technicians from the vendor of the machine, while portable x-ray machine (cabin, baggage and cargo) is checked in accordance with standard operating procedure (SOP) that exist, each business unit is obliged to carry out regular checks on the machine, then report to the Headquarters about the condition of the machine in accordance with the regulations of the Director General of Customs and Excise No. 53 Year 2010 on Control Procedure.

Procedure to damaged x-ray machine is business unit reports to Headquarters and Headquarters contact the vendor to send a technician, then technician repairs the x-ray machine. As if there are damaged and can not be repaired, business unit shall report to the Headqurters so that there will be a procurement or purchasing a new equipment.

Along with the development of technology and changes in the modus operandi of smuggling, it certainly needs an increase of ability, not only to rely on the equipment but the skill of the Customs officers at the control unit.

 

Getting to Know The Role of X-ray Machine Better – Temporaktif