On 10 November, ACI EUROPE organised a special visit to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to afford Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) an opportunity to examine the next generation security scanners currently being trialled there. The delegation comprised 14 MEPs from the Transport & Tourism, Environment & Public Health and Civil Liberties, Justice & Home Affairs committees. Amongst these was Brian Simpson MEP, Chairman of the ‘Transport & Tourism’ committee and Luis de Grandes Pascual MEP (Spain) who is coordinating the European Parliament (EP) ‘Report on Aviation Security with a special focus on Security Scanners’ (scheduled for release to the Transport & Tourism Committee on 15 March 2011). The delegation also included European Commission Head of Unit for Aviation Security (DG MOVE), Filip Cornelis and representatives from the EU Permanent Representations.
Participants were treated to a demonstration of a fire fighting exercise by Schiphol Airport’s fire service. This was followed by a formal presentation on Schiphol’s experiences to date with the security scanners. The MEPs were then given a practical demonstration of the technology in question, where they had the opportunity to be the subject of scans, as well as the chance to conduct scans on their fellow parliamentarians. The mission concluded with a lunch hosted by Schiphol Group COO and ACI EUROPE President, Ad Rutten.
The initiative to trial the devices is a joint airport-government project, and so Erik Akerboom of the Dutch National Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism presented alongside Schiphol personnel on the subject. The presentation outlined Schiphol’s generally positive experiences with the scanners, and was followed by a lively questions and answers session. The issue of privacy was central to the presentation. The delegation was informed that the new generation security scanners did not require human inspection of any images generated, nor did they have the capacity to store any of these images. MEPs were also interested to learn that passengers had a preference for the new devices. When compared with the number of complaints received from ‘pat down’ searches, the volume of passenger complaints decreased significantly, as the new scanners allow targeted hand searches, rather than the full body hand searches which existing walk-through metal detectors currently necessitate.
Health concerns were also addressed. The scanners have been approved by the independent Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research and the exposure to radiation for each security scan is less than the equivalent exposure received from the opening of a refrigerator door.
The issue of security scanners is currently being considered by the European Parliament, following a communication issued by the European Commission in June of this year. The fact finding mission offered an excellent opportunity to raise levels of awareness on this topic. ACI EUROPE is committed to providing constructive industry perspective and input into any EU-level discussions, and believes that this new technology offers an effective and acceptable tool which airports, should they so choose, should be empowered to employ, in the interest of improving the passenger experience.