Topics: Environment Environment Marine Architecture Pier Christopher Dobson

EXPLOSIVES experts have been called in to blow up seized smuggling vessels which have sunk into thick mud in the New Territories, blocking a public pier near the marine border with China.


Last week, officers from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit destroyed three wooden vessels which were used to smuggle illegal immigrants from China, and Vietnamese boat people into Hong Kong.


Ten boats have been destroyed so far and five more remain off the pier on the northern tip of a peninsula jutting into Deep Bay at the entrance to Mai Po marshes.


The craft were seized over a period of years by Marine Police and had been impounded at the Tsim Bei Tsui base while their cases awaited trial.


But most of the boats have since sunk in shallow water, becoming embedded in thick mud and posing a hazard to other vessels. They also block access to the pier which is used by both the police and the public.


All attempts to move them have been unsuccessful and a bid to destroy the boats by fire also failed because the boats had become so wet the wood would not burn.


Bomb disposal officer Chief Inspector Dominic Brittain, who was in charge of last week's clearance operation, said: ''They have become so waterlogged they couldn't be moved and they are stuck fast in the mud.


''There were so many of them there that the pier could not be used as it was blocked in by boats.'' The three vessels destroyed last week were blown up on Thursday morning in a series of controlled explosions.


Chief Inspector Brittain said the remaining vessels would be blown up at a later date.