The government of Quintana Roo, the Mexican state that encompasses the eastern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula, has announced that Cozumel will be the first port in Mexico to use facial biometrics. This should significantly enhance the port’s security, ease processing times, and make for a smoother experience for both staff and visitors.

The new technology will be implemented at all the state’s ferry and maritime terminals, which will impact millions of cruise visitors annually. In 2022-2023, Cozumel welcomed more than four million cruise passengers – the highest number of any non-homeport cruise port in the world.

“Cozumel will be the first port in Mexico to deploy cameras with facial biometric comparison technology, similar to those used in major ports in the United States and Europe,” the announcement confirmed.

Cozumel Port Security

Details of the implementation have not yet been announced, and similarly, there is no published timeline for when the technology will be fully available throughout Cozumel’s cruise terminals.

It will, however, be able to facilitate a variety of functions throughout the port areas. Video surveillance, closed-circuit television, security arches, and other features will help enhance port security and overall safety.

“The aim [is] to achieve a smooth and safe operation for the benefit of visitors and coordination with federal, state, municipal authorities, concessions, service providers, ships, and particularly with the Secretary of the Navy,” the announcement explained.

Facial recognition biometrics have already been implemented at a variety of cruise ports in Europe and the US, with dramatic results. Frequent cruise travelers have seen sharply decreased wait times for customs processing, which permits guests to either begin their vacation more quickly or be on their way at the end of the sailing without delay.

Read Also: Carnival Speeding Up Debarkation for Millions With Biometrics

Facial recognition biometrics takes a photo of an individual and compares it to a vast database of official identification photos to confirm an individual’s identity and clearance to travel. The data is only stored short-term and does not pose a significant risk of identity theft or other security concerns.

Cozumel Port Security

As yet, no plans have been announced for additional Mexican ports to join Cozumel in implementing the technology. By passengers, Ensenada is the next busiest passenger cruise port in Mexico, but only has fewer than 700,000 visitors annually, significantly less than Cozumel.

Progreso, Cabo San Lucas, and Puerto Vallarta are also popular cruise ports, but together only welcomed 1.1 million guests combined in 2022-2023.

Already in 2024, cruise passenger numbers are higher than ever. According to Quintana Roo’s official statistics portal, Cozumel has so far seen 1.8 million guests from January through April 2024, up nearly 16% over previous years.

Punta Langosta Pier, Cozumel (Photo Credit: Leigh Trail)

This is due in part not only to more visiting ships, but also the size of the ships. Carnival Cruise Line’s new Carnival Jubilee, for example – third in the Excel class – brings as many as 6,631 passengers to the cruise port every week, while Royal Caribbean International’s Icon of the Seas brings 7,600 every other week on her Western Caribbean itineraries.

With more passengers to process, existing security lines can become lengthy, creating bottlenecks and delays as visitors enter or leave the port area. In extreme cases, this could cause tour delays or even missed tours if travelers are unable to make meeting times.

It is also possible that the technology could be leveraged in the case of missing persons, such as the tragic case of the elderly guest who went missing in Cozumel in early April. In that type of situation, facial recognition camera records could quickly be searched to determine where someone may have been sighted last, who they were with, and what direction they may have headed.

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