Hunt for ships in radio plea

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 April, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 April, 1993, 12:00am

MARINE Department officials were last night still trying to trace three Vietnamese cargo ships whose crews radioed for help and claimed they were being boarded by Chinese security personnel in Hongkong waters.

The whereabouts of the Song Hieu 16, Hai Hung 01 and Thuan An 02 were still unknown, despite efforts to contact the vessels and their shipping agents, a department spokesman said.

All three ships disappeared on Saturday after reporting that they had been pursued by mainland security vessels.

''We have no idea where these cargo ships are,'' said a Marine Department source.

''They could be safely on their way to their destination, which we believe to be Haiphong in Vietnam. But it is also possible that some or all of them could have been seized by the Chinese.

''The picture will only become clearer after the Ching Ming festival holiday when all the shipping agents get back to work.'' A report from the New China News Agency (NCNA) in December admitted that Shenzhen border security forces had stopped 11 foreign ships in the latter half of 1992. The Chinese claimed that their forces boarded the vessels because of increased smuggling in the region.

There have been at least five reported cases of ships being detained by China in the first three months of this year.

A Security Branch spokesman said if it was verified that the Chinese came into Hongkong waters, the cases would be taken up with the NCNA this week.