Explosives found on mainland fishing boat

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2003, 12:00am

Fifty-one sticks of high explosives, 58 detonators and a five-metre safety fuse were seized aboard a mainland fishing boat after police intercepted it off Sai Kung, officials said yesterday.

Nine mainlanders, aged between 16 and 64, were arrested aboard the vessel, which came from Maoming City, Guangdong. The men were in custody last night pending further investigation.

Explosives are often used in illegal fishing, with the blast used to stun the fish, which are then scooped up in nets.

The vessel was seen off Sai Kung Country Park sailing from north to south in Hong Kong waters at 8pm on Sunday. It aroused suspicion as it was sailing with its navigation lights off, according to a police investigator.

Two police boats, which were carrying out an anti-smuggling and illegal immigrant operation in the area, were deployed to intercept the fishing boat, which was stopped off Tai Long Wan.

The explosives were wrapped in wax paper in two separate packs and discovered inside the cabin of the boat, according to the police officer.

'Each stick of explosive is about 20cm in length and 2.5cm in diameter but had not been fitted with a detonator or safety fuse,' the officer said. 'Initial examination shows that the explosive is ammonium nitrate and each stick contains half a pound (220 grams) of the high explosive.

'Such types of explosives are normally used for mining work and it is possible that the consignment was stolen from quarries on the mainland. We are still investigating what it would have been used for. We are not ruling out the possibility that the explosives were to be illegally used as fish bombs.'

The mainland crew reportedly told police that the explosives were brought on board the vessel in Shenzhen, but they refused to give further details.

No commercial fishing is allowed in South China Sea at the moment under the annual three-month fishing ban that started in June.