Startled by the huge quantity of smuggling of red sanders, the customs department is getting two advanced scanners at the Nhava Sheva port to scan export consignments.
Nhava Sheva has a daily average traffic of 6,000 containers of which half is for export. Currently, the port has one static and a mobile scanner, which are used to scan only containers that are imported.
According to customs officials only 5 to 10% of the export consignments are scanned, that too physically. Last year, the customs foiled 16 smuggling attempts where more than 2.5 lakh kg red sanders worth over Rs. 22 crore was seized at Nhava Sheva. A few days ago, the authorities seized 26,000 kg red sanders having local value of Rs. 2.6 crore and international market value of Rs. 6.2 crore.
Sushil Solanki, commissioner of customs (export), confirmed that the department was getting two advanced and high-capability static scanners. “We have already sent proposal to the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) for more scanners for export,” said Solanki. He said the scanners should arrive in the next few months.
A senior customs officer, requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to media, said the available scanners take 10 to 15 minutes to scan a single container. “Also, the mobile scanner can’t scan the entire container as its rays doesn’t cover the whole area,” the officer said.
However, the new scanners will not only reduce the time, but also ensure that every part of the container is scanned. “Many times, goods meant for smuggling are concealed among genuine export orders, which makes the detection difficult,” the officer said. The new scanners would restrict smuggling attempts including that of red sanders, said Solanki.
Red sanders is a tree yielding a hard fragrant timber and is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act. It comes from the border of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to Mumbai from where it is smuggled abroad. Authorities suspect that close to 3,000 trees have been hacked.