Singapore unveils new counter-terror system that detects biological, nuclear substances at ports

The new Protective, Analytical and Assessment Facility (Paaf) will be the key element of Singapore's counter-terrorism strategy.

Singapore Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said the country has taken steps to strengthen its border security and started a new facility to detect nuclear, biological and radiological substances at ports.

He said that the terrorists generally attack with rifles, bombs and other weapons but they could strike on Singapore using non-conventional weapons.

"But we also have to plan for a time when terrorists can get access to weapons of a different nature - nuclear, biological, radiological... It's not far-fetched," he told The Straits Times.

The new Protective, Analytical and Assessment Facility (Paaf), located at the Pasir Panjang Scanning Station at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority's (ICA) Ports Command, will use advanced technologies to detect all sorts of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) substances at Singapore's ports.

It houses six laboratories, including one specialised in analysing radiological and nuclear materials.

At the opening of Paaf, Shanmugam pointed that the countries in the region have "shown interest in obtaining nuclear power for peaceful means" which might increase the risk of such materials "falling into the wrong hands".

Referring to the recent series of terrorist attacks across the globe, Shanmugam said: "(Attacks) happen every week and we're no longer surprised. It's a question of when and where... So we just have to prepare ourselves."

This new facility will be the key element of Singapore's counter-terrorism strategy. It will allow ICA to conduct stringent and prompt checks on suspicious cargo and will be directed from the ports' facility without disrupting the flow of trade.

The three-storey building is the largest among the existing facilities at the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints, covering an area of about 2880 sq m.

The front-line officers and scientists will be given the permission to use the latest customized equipment to conduct on-site and real-time analysis at the facility.

Paaf also includes a Scientific Demonstration Suite which will allow Home Team officers to get acquainted with CBRNE materials. The officers will be able to identify and mitigate such threats using multimedia displays and interactive exhibits.

It also has an assessment centre for inspection which has been specially designed to hold two 45-foot trucks. It can be used to test new technology and keep larger equipment.