Vancouver Cruise Terminal Introduces Facial Biometrics for Passengers

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The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has collaborated with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to implement facial biometric technology at the Canada Place cruise terminal. The initiative marks the first use of such technology in a Canadian seaport for the embarkation of cruise passengers.

The technology automates the manual checks of travel documents for passengers entering the U.S., like those heading to Alaska, by comparing their live photo with the one in their pre-trip documentation within seconds.

Peter Xotta, president and CEO of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, emphasized the benefits of the new system. “We’re excited to partner with U.S. authorities to implement this state-of-the-art passenger processing technology, which will help us provide a fast, secure, and convenient experience for passengers embarking on a cruise.”

Canada Place
Canada Place (Photo Credit: Jeff Whyte)

The newly introduced technology replaces the automatic passport kiosks that were installed at Canada Place in 2015. Developed by Pangiam, the technology uses an advanced computer vision and AI to ensure accurate, real-time facial recognition. The system takes a photo of each passenger during the boarding process, which is then matched against the photo from their travel documents.

“Technologies being deployed in Vancouver have been purpose-built to enhance passenger experience, terminal efficiency, and border security,” said Kevin McAleen, president of BigBear.ai, which owns Pangiam.

Passengers who prefer not to use the new biometric system can opt out by informing a representative at the primary inspection point and will then undergo a manual document check.

Facial Biometric Technology Gains Traction

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been installing facial biometric technology at airports in the U.S. since 2019, according to the New York Times. Now found at more than 30 airports, facial biometric technology is also already at use at 20 U.S. cruise terminals for debarkation, including New Orleans, Louisiana; the Port of Portland, Maine; Bayonne, New Jersey; Brooklyn and New York City, New York; and multiple ports across Florida.

The technology, which can identify passengers within two seconds, has a reported 98% accuracy rate.

The integration of the technology at Canada Place is expected to significantly decrease wait times and enhance the efficiency of the boarding process for the 1.27 million passengers anticipated to visit in 2024.

Multiple cruise lines are in favor of utilizing facial recognition technology. For example, Royal Caribbean’s $247-million terminal at PortMiami, which opened in November 2023, uses the technology for its “frictionless boarding process.”

Airport facial recognition technology
Airport facial recognition technology (Photo Credit: 1000 Words)

“Technology plays a huge part in our everyday existence, and so you need to start building the technology into the experience,” Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, told Digital Travel Summit“It’s happening with the airlines; it’s happening with the cruise lines; it’s an inevitable journey.

Carnival Cruise Lines, which utilizes the technology at the majority of its U.S. homeports, including Port Canaveral in Fort Lauderdale, PortMiami, Port of Galveston in Texas, and the Port of Long Beach California, said the debarkation process has expedited by an average of 30 percent following the installation.

Read Also: New Port Tech to Speed Up Carnival Cruise Debarkation

“Through our partnership with Carnival Cruise Line, we will continue to transform cruise operations by leveraging technology and enhanced processes while also strengthening our data sharing agreement to further secure U.S. seaports,” said Diane J. Sabatino, acting executive assistant commissioner, Office of Field Operations for the CBP.

In Europe, the European Commission will introduce biometric technology for facial and fingerprint recognition at all cruise ports beginning in October 2024. 

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