Previously, travelers between Central America and South America had few options other than flying, and the only way to transport a vehicle between the two was via shipping container. Although Colombia in South America and Panama in Central America share a border, it is impassable. For as long as Colombia and Panama have existed, they have been separated by the Darien Gap, a swath of undeveloped swampland that interrupts the Pan-American Highway and makes overland travel with a car, truck, RV, or camper impossible.
In 2015, the Ferry Express opened offering vehicle roll on-roll off service between the two countries, making security an important consideration. A significant concern is preventing vehicles from carrying explosive devices or other contraband attached to their undercarriages. Smuggling illicit items like drugs or even stolen historical artifacts is a concern. As vehicle inspections have gotten underway, they are limited to physical searches, mirror on a pole searches, and dog searches. Modern security technologies like under carriage inspection systems have yet to be implemented in the high risk area.
The Eurotunnel, which had similar security concerns when it opened between the United Kingdom and France, began using a number of under vehicle scanners on either end of the tunnel. The UK has three UVIS and France has four. The systems are set up at checkpoints on the roads leading to the tunnel entrance prior to reaching immigration. In this way, security operators monitoring the scanners from a distance can alert immigration to anomalies. The undercarriage inspection system is networked to enable any security operator to view the images from all seven checkpoints.
The Ferry Express, which is a private enterprise, and other ferries like it could follow the lead of the Eurotunnel. The benefits to using under vehicle inspection systems are numerous. Under vehicle scanners are suitable for cars, motorcycles, trucks, RVs and trailers – all of which are transported by ferry. This particular ferry holds a combination 25 cars, 100 motorcycles, and two RVs or buses at a time. They can all be inspected rapidly and not delay the immigration or boarding process.
High resolution images of 100% of the underside of the vehicle give security operators the best opportunity of identifying foreign objects. Over time operators become increasingly adept at spotting different kinds of contraband in real time and improving security. The under carriage vehicle inspection system can be operated from a remote location ensuring the safety of the operators. Automatic license plate readers record and register unlimited numbers. Operators on both ends are able to view images in real time. The networked system is easy to use and can be fixed or portable with the same great security advantages.