Laundry workers to be left in port

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 August, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 August, 1996, 12:00am

The 60-year-old tradition of Hong Kong laundrymen working for the Royal Navy is to end after the handover because of possible vetting problems.

About 100 laundrymen from the territory, employed through six contractors, are working in 50 ships.

The Royal Navy has decided to award five-year contracts through open tender in Britain.

The plan to change the laundry system was unveiled in the Navy News late last year. It said washing machines had been bought for trial use.

It said: 'When the Crown Colony is handed back to China in 1997 the current system of vetting could not be carried out as thoroughly.' It said the two main options for change were installation of laundrette systems or having a contract scheme.

Future laundrymen need to be holders of any of the following passports: British National Overseas, Special Administrative Region, full British or European Economic Community.

HMS Tamar's supply and transport officer Tom Henderson said the change was partly for administrative convenience. While he believed there would not be any problems over vetting in the first five years after the handover, the situation was unknown after that.

Thousands of sensitive jobs in Britain require vetting to screen out people who might pose security threats.

The Hong Kong Government has been passing on information such as criminal records and political affiliations of people vetted by the Crown. But Britain has no formal liaison channel with China on the exchange of such information.