New laws to combat rampant smuggling

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 February, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 February, 2001, 12:00am

Smuggling at sea off Hong Kong has soared in the past year, prompting the authorities to draft new laws regulating marine traffic, it was announced yesterday.

Marine police detected 283 smuggling cases last year - up 120 per cent on 1999 - and the number of arrests rose from 420 in 1999 to 836 last year.

Investigators said mainland smugglers dealing in contraband fuel and CDs produced in other countries in the region were increasingly using large trading ships.

Customs chiefs said the influx of pirated goods from overseas could be put down to a recent crackdown on disc-making factories in the SAR.

The number of seized CDs almost doubled from 24 million to 44 million between 1999 and 2000, while marine officers found 1,275,000 litres of untaxed fuel last year, up 80 per cent on the previous year.

Marine Police Deputy Regional Commander Ng Chee-lin said: 'Smugglers use large ships to smuggle illegal oil into the mainland and use cargo ships to smuggle compact discs into Hong Kong. So the quantity of the seizures is very big.'

He said the authorities were drafting a new law under the Port and Shipping Ordinance to clamp down on smuggling as police launches and mainland smugglers played cat and mouse at sea.

'The new law will limit the locations that allow mainland ships to moor,' he said. 'Very often they moor close to the boundary, and whenever they see our ships, they withdraw to mainland waters.'

A Customs spokesman said he believed pirate disc sellers were trying to get supplies from neighbouring countries, as most production lines in Hong Kong had been smashed by Customs raids.

Mr Ng said the marine force had stepped up its anti-smuggling activities, deploying more high-speed boats. 'We turned the tide in the latter half of 2000 - the number of cases dropped drastically,' he said.

Marine Policy Regional Commander Foo Tsun-kong said 40kg of fish bombs were seized last year, up from 11.4kg in 1999.