Westminster Aviation Security Services, a subsidiary of UK-based Westminster Group, has completed the first five years of a contract to provide baggage screening services at Freetown International Airport in Sierra Leone.
Chief Financial Officer Martin Boden said this is the first build, operate, and train (BOT) project of its kind for Westminster Group. The 15-year contract was awarded in February 2012 after an international tender.
A security fee is levied on all passenger tickets, with Westminster being reimbursed directly by airlines flying from Freetown International.
“We are responsible for all screening functions of persons, baggage, cargo, and mail,” said Boden. Westminster also installed a fence around the entire perimeter of Freetown International, and it introduced appropriate monitoring systems for the staff. Security Management Systems (SeMS) are in place for performance measurement.
One major aim of the contract is to transfer skills to local employees at Freetown International. When the deal expires, it is hoped that airport security staff will have been trained to international standards.
“There is a full continuous training programme underway and a small team of expats mentoring the local staff in the performance of their duties,” Boden noted. “We employ 150 local staff to do the screening. All equipment has been provided by Westminster and is fully maintained by a local team of engineers, supported by our expat engineers when required.”
Asked why an outside company was enlisted to undertake screening, Boden added that financial constraints precluded the airport authority from purchasing the amount of equipment required to bring it up to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards. “A lack of expertise in the previous workforce meant that training was either non-existent or not effective. Westminster has provided AVSEC [aviation security] professionals with many decades of experience in both an operational environment and [an] AVSEC training environment,” he said.
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