Security management vital as air traffic soars

Zoe Sinclair (Our staff reporter)
Filed on June 5, 2008

DUBAI The UAE's continued dramatic increases in passenger traffic pose the biggest challenge in maintaining security, according to experts at The Airport Show 2008 in Dubai yesterday.

Thomas Marten, Vice-President, Government and Security Solutions at SITA (Societe Internationale de Telecommunications Aeronautiques) which manages more than 600 air operators, told Khaleej Times airports needed to work smart to manage their security.

'Airports need to enhance security and facilitate traffic,' Marten said.

'The UAE already has a high level of security. But they're looking at potentially tripling passenger volume.

'They need to balance volume with security.'

Marten said security would best be managed through a combination of biometric solutions such as the UAE e-Gate card, which requires travellers to swipe their finger at the Dubai International Airport immigration points, and passenger data systems.

'In five years everyone will have biometric passports. At that point, it will take off,' Marten said.

'There'll be a need for a global standard for biometrics.'

Marten said the rise in use of biometric identity, through the e-Gate card and biometric passports, would call first for regional agreements followed by a global agreement.

John Pottinger, vice-president of aviation safety for engineering, safety and risk company ESR Technology, speaking at the Airport Show conference in Dubai, also highlighted the need for airports to 'think the unthinkable' when it comes to security in the air and on the ground in order to stay 'one step ahead of the bad guys'.

'The complexity of the current and planned operations (in the region) requires the security management to be pro-active and risk-based simply adhering to international standards of design may no longer be sufficient to guarantee adequate safety,' Pottinger said.

Pottinger said security for cargo planes is a risk area.

'There are quite literally dozens of airports worldwide without adequate security and where the wrong people can gain access to aircraft,' he added.

'That's why I say we must think the unthinkable so that we can try and stay one step ahead of the bad guys. We must be as ingenuous and as innovative as they are in finding the weak links in existing systems before they do.'

International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director-General Giovanni Bisignani, speaking at an annual meeting in Istanbul, yesterday described aviation security as 'an uncoordinated mess'.

'Since 2001 airlines and their customers have paid over $30 billion for security measures,' Bisignani said.

'Passengers are suffering because they face a maze of duplication, bureaucracy and hassle.

'We developed Simplifying Passenger Travel to make security effective, efficient and convenient.'

Marten said the drive for security should not impinge upon travellers with time-consuming or intrusive processes.

'The best security is security you don't see. More than 99 per cent are good guys and you don't want to inconvenience them.'

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