Dublin and Cork airports set for €13m upgrade of 'explosive detection' system
A Massive overhaul of baggage handling systems at Dublin and Cork Airports to deal with new explosive detection requirements under EU rules is being kick-started by the DAA.
The airports authority has previously estimated that the upgrade at Dublin Airport alone will cost around €13m.
Semi-State DAA has said the project will be "challenging and complex" and will require significant planning while minimising the impact to airport operations and security.
The DAA, whose CEO is Kevin Toland, said the new equipment that will be installed is likely to have an impact not only on its baggage systems and terminal infrastructure, but also on the screening process and baggage operations.
The baggage screening systems at Dublin's Terminal 2 - from which most of the airport's flights to North America operate - is set to be upgraded by 2020, with the work beginning next year.
It's anticipated that work at Terminal 1 will be started in 2019 and finished by 2023.
At Cork Airport, the new installation is also slated to begin in 2019 and be completed by 2023.
The DAA has said that space constraints at Dublin's Terminal 1 make the project at that site particularly challenging.
"Due to existing system constraints, the challenge in Terminal 1 is due primarily to the spatial and structural constraints of the existing structures," according to the DAA.
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The DAA will hire a consultancy firm by the summer to manage the entire upgrade.
A contract for the actual upgrade works will be awarded next January.
The EU introduced its new explosive device screening regulation in 2011, mandating the dates by which existing systems must be retired and new ones installed to meet the new standards.
The current system in many airports in Europe typically relies on X-ray machines to detect possible explosive devices in baggage that's destined for an aircraft hold.
The new explosive detection standard - Standard 3 - means that airports have to install more sophisticated technology that can perform computer axial tomography (CAT) analysis of baggage. The DAA has pointed out that the machinery that meets the Standard 3 requirement is heavier and larger than the current Standard 2 detection equipment that's in use.
"Therefore, accommodating this new technology (and the necessary changes to the neighbouring conveyor systems to facilitate the change in process) is likely to have an impact not only on the baggage systems and terminal infrastructure but also on the screening process and baggage operations," it said.
Dublin Airport has experienced a surge in passenger numbers in recent years.
Last year, it handled almost 28 million passengers compared to 25 million in 2015.
The increase comes as people spend more on travelling abroad as the aftermath of the recession recedes, and airlines significantly boost capacity and routes from the capital. The airport is also benefiting from a rise in transfer traffic, as passengers use Dublin as a hub to travel from locations elsewhere in Europe to fly to North America, and vice versa.
At Cork Airport, passenger numbers rose last year by 8pc to 2.2 million. They're expected to increase by 5pc this year.
The DAA said that as part of the baggage screening upgrade, it may examine other potential upgrades such as inter-terminal connectivity for its baggage handling systems, as well as its arrivals baggage handling.