Police put faith in $445m maritime monitoring system
Ravina Shamdasani and Benjamin Wong
Offshore cameras seen as alternative to replacing old boats
Plans to replace ageing police boats have been ditched in favour of a $445 million surveillance system that the government believes will strengthen marine policing, legislators were told yesterday.
The proposed system would consist of two parts: a central command system to monitor a network of radar stations and offshore cameras, and a fleet of smaller and more versatile police craft to respond to problems.
Marine Regional Commander Au Hok-lam told Legco's security panel: 'With the new Versatile Maritime Policing Response system, we can operate in inclement weather and have the capacity to deal with operational needs ... as criminals nowadays are using very advanced technology, with faster and more agile craft.'
Current radar monitoring is carried out by boats which conduct patrols. The new system would save $86 million a year in operational costs, as well as reducing the number of officers needed by 200.
The new system would use cameras installed offshore together with the Marine Department's existing land-based radar stations.
At the moment, Marine Police deploy 24 boats with radar equipment along its 191km administration boundary to provide radar coverage, with smaller launches providing support and patrols for inshore areas and ports.
But with some of the vessels reaching the end of their life expectancy, Mr Au said the $445 million system would be more cost-effective than spending $840 million to continue the like-for-like replacement of retiring boats that has been in progress since 1999.
Some legislators raised safety concerns about the new, smaller boats, but Mr Au said a working group had been set up to improve training and the force would consider new safety devices to minimise the potential for injuries.
Lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung said the government should ensure it did not buy Japanese vessels, saying he would be disturbed if vessels patrolling Hong Kong waters were the same as those used by Japan off the disputed Diaoyu Islands.
But Deputy Secretary for Security Cheung Siu-hing said World Trade Organisation guidelines banned such discrimination.
The police are also seeking approval for a $59.57 million computerised palmprint system to replace its fingerprint identification system. Assistant Commissioner of Police Bonnie Smith said the palmprint system was in line with Interpol requirements and was quicker and more reliable.