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Taiwan aviation security mishaps show personnel deficiencies
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-05-29 03:53 PM
Ruling and opposition legislators took turns Thursday riddling the Aviation Police Bureau (APB) with criticism following the release of the latest report on safety and security at Taoyuan International Airport. APB Chief Wang Lung remarked that some lawmakers viewed security staff as aging veterans getting long in the tooth while others saw them mainly as raw and inadequately trained rookies.

The security report pointed up a couple of incidents that have embarrassed aviation security officials recently. One was a passenger who was allowed to carry a suitcase loaded with diesel fuel onto an airliner after an X-ray machine technician mistook them for jars of honey. The second was an incident in which a passenger traveling to South Korea failed to notice that a pet cat had slipped into baggage that was checked in for the flight. The feline was discovered only during a customs inspection after the bags arrived at Inchon, and the cat is now back in Taiwan and quarantine waiting to be re-admitted and returned to its owner.

Wang said that it is natural for people to scoff at the air security force when such oversights occur, but he objected to those who project such isolated incidents into blanket condemnation of security efforts at Taoyuan International Airport.

KMT Legislator Luo Shu-lei of the Legislative Yuan’s Transportation Committee said that security operations at Taoyuan were becoming an international joke. She said that both the Philippines and South Korea had chided security forces in Taiwan for their laxity and asked where the problem lies in Taiwan.

Wang Lung responded that he had personally checked into the two security mishaps in question. He said the lapse involving the mistaken diesel fuel was probably due to personnel who are a bit too old and do not pay close enough attention. In the case of the undetected kitten, he said, the slip-up involved a new inspector who had been inadequately trained.

DPP legislator Yeh Yi-chun pursued the question of age versus lack of experience, asking how many of the security staff were already looking forward to retirement and how many were still wet behind the ears.

Wang Lung said the airport police bureau has a total of 388 full-time personnel as well as 209 contracted workers. He said the average age of staff is 41 years old, with the largest number in the 24 to 27-year-old bracket at more than 90. He said there are 75 people with three years or less experience, adding that the technician who mistook the cat had been on the job for only three months.

Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih stepped in to note that the recent incidents show that security staff are inadequately trained and poorly motivated.

Yeh Yi-chun said that the idea of "equal pay for equal work" could also have something to do with security problems, noting that airport security personnel are paid NT$30,000 a month to perform the same tasks that police in Taiwan’s cities get NT$68,000 to do. Yeh said the Ministry of Transportation should consider amending the laws to allow police to work in airport security and vice versa.

Yeh responded that the main problem now is a severe shortage of personnel in the aviation police. He noted that the Ministry of Transportation wants to set up a separate company charged solely with taking care of airport security so that it can concentrate on solving problems related to the age and experience of officers.

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