electronic-fence detection system at the airport in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, was switched off after reported false alarms due to “malfunctions”, posing a security threaat. OR Tambo International Airport is Africa's biggest and busiest airport, facilitating approximately 19 million passengers a year. More than 50 percent of South Africa's air travelling passengers are facilitated through the airport.
'Malfunctions' require new perimeter intrusion detection system
Traveller24 contacted Airports Company SA (Acsa) to confirm details for a new perimeter intrusion detection system as part of a security upgrade at SA’s major airports including OR Tambo, Cape Town International as well East London and Port Elizabeth airports - but it has not responded as yet.
The South African Civil Aviation Authority confirmed an upgrade was being undertaken at OR Tambo but "due to the sensitive nature of security-related issues", it did not wish to discuss the specific security measures being implemented.
According to the SACAA, it continuously reviews security measures at SA's airports to "ensure that they meet both local and international legislative requirements".
'OR Tambo meets SACAA requirements'
"At this point in time, OR Tambo International Airport meets the requirements as laid down in our legislation," SACAA Executive Corporate Services, Phindiwe Gwebu told Traveller24.
Reasons given by the SACAA for the upgrade included, "passing of time and advances in technology and technical systems".
As the regulator of all major improvements and implementation of any security systems, Gwebu said the SACAA was satisfied the "upgrade will lead to better and improved security".
"We are satisfied that the work of upgrading these security systems will not result in compromised security procedures and systems, as we have reviewed the procedures and systems currently in place."
Gwebu said timely upgrades were necessary for the airports to remain ahead of criminals or "those with less noble intent", also acknowledging that OR Tambo is subjected to external audits other than those conducted by the SACA - including the International Civil Aviation Organization, United States’ Transport Security Administration, United Kingdom’s Department for Transport, and the Australian Office of Transport Security and that to date, "none of these entities have identified major deficiencies in South Africa’s compliance with global security requirements".
Global ICAO compliance at 84% in SA
"In terms of global compliance, South Africa’s level of effective implementation of security and safety standards is currently rated at 84% by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is above the global average of 60%."
However, the 84% rating does not include any progress achieved since the last audit in 2007.
ICAO is a specialised agency of the United Nations tasked with the development of Standards and Recommended Practices which Member States must effect when developing their civil aviation regulations. Last year South Africa, represented by the SACAA, assumed a key role to chair ICAO’s Aviation Security Panel - of which a key responsibility is enhancing civil aviation security across the world as well as identifying new and emerging threats and develop appropriate mitigating measures.
Upgrade to include motion detection cameras
The last time the system was overhauled was ahead of the 2010 World Cup Tournament, when Acsa spent R80 million on perimeter security upgrades.
The airport perimeter-security technology normally includes physical fence lines, closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras, intelligent-video surveillance, command, control and communications (C3) centr es as well as inter-operable network solutions.
Currently, perimeter fencing, which includes a concrete wall, is already in place at OR Tambo but Acsa is said to be looking for information and communications technology security integration as well as motion detection cameras.
Security at SA’s airports have been compromised in recent months – with the death of a stowaway on a flight from Joburg to London in July 2015 - raising aviation security concerns about “screening policies, the absence of designated security officers at major airports and the need for upgrades to emergency command centres”.
In August 2012, the body of a stowaway was found in the landing gear bay of a Boeing 747 which arrived at Heathrow on a flight from Cape Town – believed to have been the same person who airport security had tried to stop from scaling the Cape Town International Airport fencing at the time of the incident.