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August 30, 2005

Golden Gate Ferry passengers screened for explosives

Passengers using San Francisco's Golden Gate Ferry are being screened for explosives in a pilot program operated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the U.S. Coast Guard, in partnership with the ferry operator.

The program is part of the Secure Automated Inspection Lanes (SAIL) project.

SAIL's purpose is to test the feasibility of using new technologies while maintaining efficient passenger screening systems for high volume commuter ferries

Prior to boarding, passengers are being handed a card that explains the program. The card can capture explosive material. It ie handed back to a TSA screener who will scan it and analyze it for explosive material using the detection equipment. If the card shows the presence of explosive material, the passenger will undergo secondary screening; the cards will then be destroyed in the presence of the passenger.

The 30-day pilot program has been initiated at the Golden Gate Ferry terminals in Larkspur, Calif., and will later move to the San Francisco terminal.The tests will be conducted Monday through Friday, starting with off-peak departures, and expanding to include commuter trips during rush hour.

"Deploying and testing explosives detection technology at port facilities allows us to follow through on our commitment to aggressively enhance security throughout the entire transportation network," said Ed Gomez, Western Area Director for TSA. "This new phase of the SAIL program addresses the screening of passengers, the importance of which has been underlined by recent world events."

According to Maureen Middlebrook, President of the Board of Directors, Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, "We are exceedingly proud to be the first public commuter ferry operation in the United States to be selected for TSA's SAIL program. Testing passenger screening technologies for potential use during times of heightened alerts is essential for the future of ferry passenger security."

Smiths Detection is providing two Ionscan 400B desktop trace explosives detection systems and one Ionscan Document Scanner for the program.

Both systems employ Ion Mobility Spectrometry technology, a next-generation technology also used in the company's Sentinel II, an explosive detection walk-through trace portal, recently deployed by the TSA in airports nationwide to help improve passenger screening checkpoints.

Mark Laustra, Vice President, Transportation Security Technology & Programs, Smiths Detection North America, says the Ionscan 400B and Document Scanner systems "add effective layers to security checkpoints that will safeguard America's waterways."

The Ionscan 400B analyzes items such as checked or carry-on luggage, portable electronic devices, or packages. In eight seconds it is capable of determining the presence of traces of explosive substances. If a contraband substance is detected, the specific name is identified on the display.

The Ionscan Document Scanner collects samples by swiping the surface of documents such as driver's licenses, passports and other travel documents, over a sample disc. Subsequently, the sample disc is automatically brought into the detector for analysis and a display presents the results to operators. If detection is made, the specific explosive is identified on the display. Positive detection would mean that trace amounts of a particular explosive have been found on the item sampled and would indicate that an explosive device may be present or that the person may have been in contact with explosive material.

According to Smith's Detection, thousands of Ionscan 400B and Document Scanner systems are currently deployed at major international airports, and by the military and law enforcement agencies. Both systems have also been tested at major airports and rail stations by the TSA.

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