The government has asked all 12 state-owned major ports to go for advanced radioactive material detectors fearing lack of it could result in shipment of hazardous materials into the country.
"The Shipping Ministry has issued letters to all major ports to immediately assess the requirement for the number of radioactive material detectors at each major port and get it installed. Six major ports are likely to be equipped with it in six months, while the remaining will have it by March, 2012," a senior Shipping Ministry official said.
"Unfortunately, barring two scanners at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), all ports lack scanners, which makes it extremely difficult to check the container traffic. The Home Ministry had also reviewed the situation, while we are in touch with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre too," the official said.
All ports have been asked to make budgetary provisions for procuring the radiation detectors. The ministry has asked Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL) to make a demonstration of the equipment soon, the official said.
A prototype of the gadget has already been installed at the Nava Sheva port in Mumbai and once installed, the detectors will play a pivotal role in security, as they will scan cargo stacked within steel containers.
Asked about the cost of the gadgets, the official said a primary detector can cost anything between Rs 40 lakh and Rs 50 lakh, adding that apart from these, there were handheld secondary and tertiary gadgets for radiation detection.
The total cost of installing the detectors, he said, would be estimated after the assessment by ports and it was likely to be done soon. ECIL was about to make a presentation of its own before the ministry soon, he added.
A lot of container traffic, sources said, goes unexamined at major ports -- Mumbai, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Kolkata (with Haldia), Chennai, Visakhapatanam, Cochin, Paradip, New Mangalore, Marmagao, Ennore, Tuticorin and Kandla.
These ports handled 560.68 million tonnes of cargo, including 102 MT of iron ore, in just concluded 2009-10.
The cargo handled in 2008-09 was 530.35 MT.