Schiphol will address the shortage of security officers with new technology

It provides no consolation for the upcoming summer vacation. But from 2025, Schiphol expects to be able to remedy any staff shortages with new technology that can work with fewer security guards. The airport is now looking for suppliers of such equipment in a closed tender.

Precisely the lack of security personnel created chaos at Schiphol during the May holidays, resulting in long queues and flights that had to be diverted or canceled. During the corona crisis, many security guards were on the streets, and the six companies that Schiphol has outsourced to fail to get enough people back into service on time.

The search for technological systems that can handle fewer security guards started during the pandemic, but is now even more urgent. Such systems are actually available, a market consultation revealed two years ago.

Automatically detect prohibited items

Schiphol was already a frontrunner in the introduction of CT scanners, known from medicine. The offer should include an upgrade of these scanners so that they can automatically detect “prohibited items” (the automatic detection of prohibited items† A next step could be the introduction of walk throughscanners that travelers go through without taking off shoes, belts, jewelry and watches. “But that technology is not yet ready for use in practice,” said a Schiphol spokesman.

Thanks to new technologies, travelers will soon be able to flow faster through the scanning process. As a result, security will be less likely to get stuck in heavy traffic, while fewer security guards can be deployed. Think, for example, of the deployment of two security guards overseeing ten scanners instead of, as now, one scanner, as stated in the documents Schiphol prepared for the tender. The work of the security guards then becomes ‘more interesting and attractive’, it sounds.

In addition, Schiphol requires that the new equipment can handle larger passenger flows and that it is geared to the requirements of pandemics such as the corona, with little or no physical contact between the security guard and passengers.

Is it possible? “Safe. Everything is possible,” says Marcel Spit from BVI Advice Center, which, among other things, deals with airport security. “Especially if you spend a lot of money on it. Suppliers make millions on it.” But, he adds in perspective, it is impossible to reduce risks to zero. “And at Schiphol, passengers who boarded airports also spend much less on security.”

To shoot in your own foot

Half a year ago, Schiphol began looking for suppliers that live up to their requirements. It happens in secret. Information on airport security is considered confidential and sensitive and must therefore be protected by law “for the sake of national security”.

The tender process will take place in stages, a spokesman for Schiphol said. “New concepts will be tested on site. The final choices will be made based on the results. “The introduction of new technologies can not be expected until 2025, Schiphol believes.

In the short term, Schiphol may be shooting himself in the foot, warns Joost van Doesburg from the FNV trade union. “Schiphol is now facing a shortage of security guards and this can only be remedied if their work becomes more attractive,” he says. “For example, by giving security guards a permanent contract. But is it possible if far fewer security guards are needed in a few years? Or will these newly hired security guards all be fired again? ”

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