Malaysia Automated Clearance System ... not so clear afterall??

These people are making use of advanced technology to slow down the whole--otherwise straight-forward--process?!

The Malaysia Automated Clearance System (MACS) is expected to replace the manual system at the Causeway and Second Link by year-end.

Immigration director-general Datuk Alias Ahmad said the fast-track clearance system, which involved the use of sticker tags and a biometric system, was faster and more efficient.

"When MACS is fully implemented at all counters, our staff will have more time to cater to the needs of travellers at the two checkpoints," he said yesterday after touring the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex at Sultan Iskandar Building (SIB) near the Causeway.

MACS was introduced in 2009 for Singaporeans who travelled to Malaysia at least four times a month.

With MACS, visitors from the republic will no longer have to fill out the immigration card or have their passports stamped when they enter the country.

They scan their index fingers during the first entry and for subsequent entries, they scan their passports at MACS gates.

Applications to use the MACS system can be made online and is renewable annually. Each user is charged RM30 (S$12) a year.

The Immigration Department is targeting to get 800,000 MACS users by the end of this year.

The department has set up offices at the SIB, the Sultan Abu Bakar Complex at the Second Link and the Iskandar Regional Development Authority office at Danga Bay.

Yesterday, the immigration clearance at the Causeway and Second Link was back to normal after two weekends of hiccups in the biometric fingerprint scanning system.

There was also no long queue of vehicles at the Second Link, despite the school holiday weekend in Singapore and the arrival of some 200 tour coaches from the republic.

With the smooth immigration clearance yesterday, Alias said the congestion at the checkpoints could probably be caused by a huge traffic volume from the republic.

"We are satisfied with traffic movement at both the checkpoints today. It shows that our efforts in fine tuning the system paid off."

From Asiaone, "Faster clearance for Singaporeans going to Malaysia soon".

There was chaos at the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) checkpoint at the Sultan Iskandar Building (SIB) yesterday when the biometric fingerprint scanning system had problems coping with the huge number of tourists in light of the weekend and school holidays.

The security system was implemented just four days ago.

Tourists took at least 90 minutes to wait for Immigration clearance.

The delay had forced many of them to change or scrap their holiday plans.

There was a sea of people at the SIB's arrival hall and immigration clearance was reported to take as long as five minutes for each tourist. This is five times longer than the Immigration Department's target of one minute per tourist.

A similar situation also occurred at the CIQ checkpoint in the Sultan Abu Bakar Complex (SABC) at the Second Link, with most cars and buses taking about 150 minutes just to reach the complex.

Chiew Kok Leong, 48, who took a bus service from Woodlands, in Singapore, to attend a relative's wedding in Muar, said it took him nearly two hours to have his passport stamped.

"The long delay has upset my schedule for the day. I will be late for the reception."

S. Karasima, 55, who was with a tour group for a one-day visit to Malacca, said the group had to cancel the trip and go on a tour of Johor Baru instead.

"It is unreasonable to make us wait for so long for immigration clearance.

"Do you have any idea how tiring it was to stand for almost two hours just to get through Immigration?"

Checks with local tour guides showed about 60 tour coaches at SIB and 100 at SABC were affected by the delays. The number of tourists involved were 6,400; most of them Singaporeans and Japanese.

The biometric scanning system, introduced on June 1, requires foreigners entering and leaving the country to have their left and right index fingers scanned at entry and exit points.

It is a new security feature aimed at curbing transboundary crimes and terrorism threats.

Previously, tourists only needed to have their passports stamped.

The system has been implemented in 96 entry points in the country.

Malaysia Tour Guides Council president Jimmy Leong said the tourism industry suffered a severe blow as a result of the hiccup, adding that this had left a bad impression on tourists.

He said it was disappointing that the problem occurred during the school holidays, which was the peak season for the tourism industry.

"I will be writing to the Prime Minister's Department and Tourism Ministry to highlight the matter."

Elaborating on the severity of the situation, Leong said it took him three-and-a-half hours to wait for three coaches transporting Singaporean and Japanese tourists to get through Immigration.

"It normally takes about 20 minutes for each coach to pass through clearance at the SIB's CIQ checkpoint. Today, it took about 90 minutes. This excludes the time loss for each coach to reach the complex from the Causeway.

"My Japanese customers are so angry that they blamed me for not informing them about the situation at the checkpoint. They were supposed to reach Malacca by 12.30pm. However, they only managed to have their passports stamped at that time.

"Their one-day Malacca tour was scrapped as a result of the delay."

Checks from other tour guides revealed that many groups from Singapore had cancelled their tours today (Sunday) in view of the anticipated problems at both checkpoints.

Immigration Department director-general Datuk Alias Ahmad urged travellers to be patient with the new security system.

He said travellers took a much longer time than expected to have their passports stamped and fingers scanned as the system was moving towards stabilisation.

"For some people, it takes only a minute. For others, it takes about two to three minutes. We welcome feedback and will improve the system as soon as possible."

Alias urged Singaporean motorists to apply for the Malaysia Automated Clearance System at any Immigration office for faster immigration clearance as the system would do away with the need to have their fingers scanned again after their first visit.

From Asiaone, "Chaos at Causeway". (05/06/11)

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