Ports and Borders ,
Seizing Illegal Narcotics with mobile scanners in cross-border trade
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Ports and Borders ,
Seizing Illegal Narcotics with mobile scanners in cross-border trade
Download Print Version
More than two decades of partnership between Smiths Detection and the French General Directorate of Customs and Excise to keep the French borders safe.
Growing Global Trade and Sophisticated Threats

The General Directorate of Customs and Excise (French Customs), also known as Direction Générale des Douanes et Droits Indirects, is the French law enforcement agency responsible for fighting against fraud and major international trafficking, supporting economic activity and levying indirect taxes. Located on all the territory, French Customs protects French territory and citizens, as well as national and European economic interests by ensuring smooth, fair and secure trade.

Today, the French Customs operates in a world of growing and increasingly complex cross-border trade. More diverse trading partners leads to more threats, demanding greater vigilance and more sophisticated response to new forms of crime. Terrorism, environmental and health threats are all creating their own unique challenges. In response, French Customs have implemented sophisticated tools and technology to ensure flexible, reliable and efficient operations in the long-term.

25 Years of Constructive Partnership

Smiths Detection began its partnership with French Customs in 1995, when the agency became one of the first in the world to install an X-Ray scanner to screen vehicles in Le Havre Port followed by another one in Calais Port.

At this time, in partnership with Smiths Detection, the agency deployed four mobile X-ray inspection systems “HCVM L” throughout the French territory. Inaugurated by then French Budget Minister Jean-François Copé, the scanners are operating near main roads and strategic highways.

Still used today, the X-ray inspection system HCVM L is easily transferable from location to location and is ready for operation in less than 30 minutes. In mobile-scanning mode, it can scan up to 25 trucks in an hour, or up to 100 trucks an hour in pass-through mode.

In 2014, the mobile scanners were enhanced with the implementation of the Graphic User Interface (GUI) “DaiSy”. The software platform is designed to improve operator efficiency, offering Customs officers a variety of customisable image treatments, options and comparison tools from a single workstation. The ergonomic and intuitive GUI requires no more than two mouse-clicks to perform image analysis, allowing timely interpretation of images and verification of cargo. The software and hardware upgrade of the computing system has improved functions and capacities but also extended the life of the scanning system.


Cargo truck about to be screen with the HCVM. Image courtesy of Ouest-France.


Control operation by French Customs with their mobile scanner HCVM L at Saint Goustan rest area in Auray, Morbihan on RN165 main road helping identify threats and contraband items more easily and accurately.

Continuous Reliability and Efficiency

On 10 June 2020, the French Customs conducted a control operation with a mobile scanner at the Saint-Goustan rest area in Auray, Morbihan : 36 40-tonne trucks, registered in France, Poland, Italy, Romania… were checked in less than 10 minutes each – five minutes to scan the truck and another five minutes to analyse the images.

The control operation is a testament to the long-term reliability and efficiency of the machines even after more than a decade of use. Throughout the years, the French Customs have benefited from the high mobility and ease of use of the HCVM scanners. French customs regularly deploy their mobile scanners at strategic sites in terms of customs controls and fight against fraud.

Highly detailed and customisable functions help operators easily identify contraband items and other irregularities to guide effective direction of vehicles to manual inspection when required. The increased speed and convenience add up to long-term efficiency and cost-savings.

The implementation of the mobile scanners has led to significant seizures of narcotics and cigarettes in France, including:

  • Seizure of 8.7 tonnes of contraband cigarettes from a refrigerated truck entering from Spain via Biriatou, the French-Spanish border in September 2018.
  • Seizure of more than 300 kilos of cannabis resin concealed in suitcases in a refrigerated truck, hidden under tonnes of fruits at a traffic control on the A7 motorway in Lyon in March 2017.

Soon, French Customs will be equipped with Smiths Detection’s latest cargo and vehicle scanner HCVM XL benefiting from the latest technological developments in image and detection.
It will strengthen the control capacities of French Customs, helping to stop the flow of illegal trade and items entering the country.

For more than two decades, we have relied on the technology and expertise of Smiths Detection to carry out our customs control operations. Thanks to our mobile scanners, we have been successful fighting crime and threats at our borders and in the territory, whilst ensuring smooth trade flows. Our partnership with Smiths Detection is key to ensure the effective implementation of our ‘proactive, visible’ strategy in the fight against trafficking to keep France and European Union safe.
— General Directorate of Customs and Excise