The busiest port in the Caribbean, the Port of San Juan, encompasses eight cargo terminals and more than 500,000 square feet and receives tons of cargo each day, both for domestic delivery and in transit. This huge traffic volume, while a vital part of the island’s economy, is also a major challenge for the Puerto Rico Ports Authority (PRPA), the entity charged with overseeing port security, and Hacienda, which ensures that import taxes and tariffs are properly paid by shippers.

This challenge was compounded by the passage of Puerto Rico Law 12, the Safe Port Act, which mandated 100 percent cargo screening for all of Puerto Rico’s ports, including San Juan. While the primary focus of the law was to reduce smuggling and ensure that the proper tariffs were paid on goods coming into the island, enhanced screening and security measures played an important role.

The PRPA, however, lacked a comprehensive cargo screening program, as well as the resources needed to open up a 100-percent-screening operation. With this in mind, the Puerto Rico Ports Authority decided to take the new screening operation out to bid — not just for the equipment, but rather everything, from staffing to maintenance.

During the bidding process, the Puerto Rico Ports Authority was particularly interested in the solution offered by Rapiscan Systems Inc., Torrance, Calif., primarily due to the fact that a manufacturer was offering not only the equipment but also the services. In the solution presented, Rapiscan would provide the staffing, personnel training and maintenance of the screening checkpoints at the Port of San Juan along with the scanning equipment through its operational services division, S2 Global. This meant that with the S2 Global screening solution, the Ports Authority would receive a soup-to-nuts screening strategy for the Port, from personnel and finance management to equipment delivery, operation and maintenance.

After evaluating all of the potential operators, Rapiscan’s S2 Global won out, and work immediately started on vetting and hiring local professionals, implementing a training regimen and establishing the logistical flow for the checkpoint. The company also secured and installed the necessary technology for the checkpoint — in this case, the Rapiscan Eagle M45 mobile cargo screening solution, a highly flexible screening technology that can operate in a variety of checkpoint scenarios, from mobile to portal.



The deployment of the cargo screening checkpoint began in April 2010, with the first container traffic moving through it a year later in April 2011. Fully staffed by S2 Global contractors, the checkpoint process starts with a given container entering the Puerto Rico customs process. From there, the cargo shipment is transported into the checkpoint for screening.

Once inside the checkpoint, the container or container truck is examined using the Rapiscan Eagle M45. S2 Global’s screening solution also features CertScan which allows the operator to quickly compare the shipping manifest against the results of the cargo scan, allowing for a real-time discrepancy analysis. If any anomalies that could pose a potential threat or contraband are detected, the cargo is then flagged for additional scanning, typically a manual inspection in addition to a secondary electronic scan.

Finally, the results are recorded in a single data file to be shared with the Puerto Rican authorities. The cargo shipment is then transported out of the checkpoint by truck for domestic delivery.

With the first checkpoint running smoothly, the Puerto Rico Ports Authority is scanning one container per minute at that terminal, meeting the 100 percent cargo screening requirement of Puerto Rico Law 12 while keeping cargo flowing in and out of the Port of San Juan at a steady pace. But most importantly, the Ports Authority has enhanced its ability to enforce trade laws and tariffs while enhancing the overall safety and security of the island’s populace.

Even with the 100 percent screening regimen in place, the Ports Authority has still seen a massive improvement in operational efficiency, with more containers being scanned in one month than over the entirety of the previous year. Because the S2 Global screening solution was custom built to the exact specifications of the locale and the needs of the Port of San Juan, all aspects of the screening procedure, from traffic flow to logistics, integrate seamlessly with the Port’s existing operations.

In addition to the initial checkpoint at the Port of San Juan, the Ports Authority plans to open five additional checkpoints in 2011, all of which will be staffed and maintained by Rapiscan’s S2 Global subsidiary.

The Port of San Juan’s screening-as-a-service model provides a proof-of-concept that every port, no matter how large or small, can implement 100 percent cargo screening, if they find the right integrator with the right know-how. Security is no longer just about technology; it’s about the service.