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SLASPA installs new security equipment at airports

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Contact: John Emmanuel

Monday, March 31, 2003 - Passengers making use of Saint Lucia’s southern-based international airport, Hewanorra, have begun benefiting from a heightened sense of security, thanks to overall improvements backed up by new state-of-the-art equipment. On Wednesday, representatives of the Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority (SLASPA) took government officials on a tour of selected areas of the international airport where significant improvement in security measures have been incorporated. The changes were fuelled by concerns from the international community following the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.

The security upgrades, financed by a US$5 million loan from the World Bank under its Emergency Recovery Project include new x-ray screening equipment for carry-on luggage, new check-baggage screening equipment and supporting arrangements as well as two new patrol vehicles. “These vehicles are going to patrol the internal parameter of the international airport to ensure that nothing untoward is going on at the airport. This is to ensure that we reduce the possibility of and if possible eliminate it all together, of anybody being desirous of causing destruction at the airport and in a sense cripple our economy,” said SLASPA’s General Manager Vincent Hippolyte.

Additional changes have also been effected within the security structure of SLASPA itself and will lead to tighter controls at the George F.L. Charles Airport in the capital Castries as well. Along with the new equipment will also come additional training for staff.

According to Hippolyte, “we have to interact with Customs and Immigration to ensure that they and other regulatory agencies at the various ports of entry also step-up their security presence and security interests at the airport. This is not just a SLASPA issue as it involves everyone including passengers and the airlines as well.”

Prime Minister and Minister with responsibility for National Security, Honourable Dr. Kenny Anthony, has welcomed the security up-grades, saying that failure to measure up would leave the island vulnerable to increased drug trafficking, criminal elements and possible terrorists activity. Such situations he explained could lead to a lack of competitiveness in attracting visitors to the island’s shores. “There can be no question about it that we have to intensify our efforts, not only in terms of drug trafficking but more crucially in making sure that we do not become an easy departure point for those who wish to engage in reckless behaviour,” said Dr. Anthony.

He went on to add, “Whether we like it or not our proximity to the United Sates was both a strength and a weakness. It is a strength because we have easy access and share similar time zones and of course we have a great relationship with the US. It I a weakness because we can be a jumping-off point for those who wish the citizens of the US great harm.”

The security up-grades at the airports now place Saint Lucia among the most competitive in terms of attracting visitors and other commercial interest and investment to the country.

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