Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers worked overtime in dealing with the end-of-the-year holiday traffic surge at the Tuas and Woodlands checkpoints. According to Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, the lack of manpower within the agency did not stop them from doing their jobs as 90% of the officers reported for duty during the holidays and approximately 500 of them worked overtime.
Shanmugam further explained that on normal days, roughly 400,000 crossings take place, however, with the holiday season, it escalates by 10%. “The starting point is we just don’t have enough manpower. It’s a problem not just for ICA but for industries all over Singapore and other branches of government. So we have to do the best we can with the available manpower,” added Mr. Shanmugam.
In addition, the Home Affairs Minister also said that ICA has tried to utilize technology in alleviating the problem, but he pointed out that the Woodlands Checkpoint has physical limitations. “So if you look at the physical footprint of woodlands checkpoint … there is a physical limit to how many counters there can be, how many vehicles can be cleared at any given time…. We have gone quite a bit on the use of technology. Even as demand has gone up significantly, it has helped us clear and help people travel through. But you know when’s there’s a huge surge, it does impose some limitations,” Shanmugam lamented.
The SG government is considering “longer-term solutions” involving the physical footprint of Woodlands Checkpoint in resolving the issue. The Minister said that more details will be announced in the coming days.
In his statement, Mr. Shanmugam asserted that “Technology is the key enabler, we have to use technology, but you know it’s not a complete solution. In the end you need an officer physically sitting there doing something,” he emphasized.