PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 June, 2010, 12:00am

Practical test needed for use of motorboats

I wonder if anybody in authority, in particular the director of the Marine Department, is aware that there is no practical test included as a requirement for issuance of master plus engineer licences to operate a boat with an engine over 2 horsepower. This being the case, it is similar to saying that, after passing the written test, a person can take his car out on the road without having any on-the-road experience.

With Master/Engineer Grade 1 licences a person can immediately operate, say, a jet ski with power exceeding 20 kilowatts and/or a motorboat with more than 1,000hp.

It is not difficult to imagine what might happen, particularly on waterways in Sai Kung, for example, which are fairly congested at weekends.

It would be interesting to hear from the director as to why it is not mandatory to ask holders of certificate of competency licences to go through a practical test or, as an alternative, to demonstrate their ability to operate such vessels?

The present arrangement is ridiculous as, without actual on-the-water experience, how could the holder be called competent?

I do not want to hear that there is a manpower problem, as this state of affairs has existed for many years.

Must we wait for a fatal accident before the authorities sit up and give serious consideration to this matter?

S. Mar, Wan Chai

Backing hair drug-test option

The government has launched a pilot, hair drug-testing service in drug rehabilitation centres.

It has a number of advantages over urine and blood tests; therefore it should be introduced in schools.

Getting strands of hair for a test is easier and causes less embarrassment than asking for a urine sample.

It would be more difficult for students to tamper with a hair sample, and storage in the laboratory would be less of a problem since urine must be kept at low temperatures. With this new system, the school drug-testing scheme could be more efficient.

I also think the hair test will be more effective at helping young people with drug problems.

The urine test only indicates drug use over the past few days, and a student who has just started taking drugs may not use them frequently.

The hair test can detect drug-taking patterns going back three months. It could, therefore, give some indication of whether or not the student was addicted.

Third, the hair drug test result is much more accurate but at a rather low cost.

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has already invented a new hair testing method costing HK$300.

However, there is no need to introduce it right now. We need to wait until reports come out on the current drug-test scheme in Tai Po schools.

Tracy Mak, Tsz Wan Shan

Concentrate on local talent

Hong Kong's men's and women's teams were knocked out of the World Table Tennis Championships in Moscow at the quarter-final stage. I think it is time to review the strategy of bringing in players from the mainland and ask if this is the best way to develop the sport in Hong Kong.

It is true that these imported players have won many medals for Hong Kong over the past 10 years. Most of the members of the Singapore women's team, which won the championship, came from the mainland.

However, is winning medals the only thing that matters? Have the imported players helped to raise the local game? How many home-grown players have reached international standard as a result of training with the mainland players on the Hong Kong team?

The relevant sports authorities have to ask themselves if some resources should be allocated to developing local talent.

This has worked in cycling, where money was spent on a good coach rather than bringing in established cyclists from outside. Among our young people there is no lack of talent.

Ng Hon-wah, Pok Fu Lam

Blaming the wrong officials

Your editorial ('A case that should never have gone to court', May 27) says that a magistrate lambasted the Food and Environmental Health Department for taking to court a hapless ice-cream vendor who was, in the final event, convicted of a very minor offence when plying his humble but wholesome trade.

You suggest that those officials responsible for enforcing the law against ice-cream vendors are lacking in 'sensitivity, common sense and compassion'.

I hesitate to defend a government department that appears so very mean-spirited and curmudgeonly but, in fairness to public service jobsworths everywhere, the control of all criminal prosecutions is entrusted not to department officials but to the Department of Justice under Article 63 of the Basic Law ('The Department of Justice of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall control criminal prosecutions, free from any interference').

If pointless prosecutions are being maintained by government departments, then that is an indication that there may be insufficient 'control' of the departmental officers who initiate criminal proceedings.

This is not to suggest that a legal officer from the Department of Justice needs to scrutinise each and every summons that is taken out for each and every minor offence. But there should be effective oversight of the departmental decision-making leading to a prosecution.

Whether that is done by publishing guidance for departmental officers or by legal officers conducting occasional checks on decisions to prosecute, is a matter for the Department of Justice.

However, when daft or insensitive prosecutions are maintained in the name of a government department, magistrates and the public will do well to remember that the final responsibility for the case rests with the Department of Justice.

Philip Dykes, Admiralty

Plenty of room for vendors

Annelise Connell does not like us to smoke or drink, and now does not want us to enjoy an ice cream on a hot day ('Hawker staked out his turf', June 3).

If she cared to cross to the dark side (Kowloon) from luxurious Stanley (no visa required) she would find that the enormous pedestrian plaza outside the Star Ferry and the Cultural Centre has more than enough space to accommodate canoodling couples, pedestrians - including mothers and helpers with baby strollers - and a few ice-cream vendors.

There is even room for a beer tent.

Now, banning mothers and helpers with baby strollers from Central - that would be a mission.

Jeremy M. Barr, Kowloon City

Better driving cuts pollution

I get tired of reading all the reports about pollution in Hong Kong, especially involving the transport sector.

Here are a few options for all drivers to consider, which would cost nothing:

Do not continuously pump the accelerator pedal;

Do not accelerate to a red light only to hit the brakes hard to stop;

Do not try to cool down the vehicle to a temperature cold enough to keep penguins;

Do not drive your light goods vehicle up a hill in first gear revving it to 5,000 rpm; and

Don't drive around SoHo five or six times to show off your car (we are not interested) or because you are waiting for your other half to finish her shopping.

Aside from giving cleaner roadside air if drivers took this advice, it would make my day a lot more pleasant.

Vincent van Gijn, Central

Tighten Chinese medicine rules

The recall of Po Chai Pills, which contained harmful chemicals, raised alarm bells about the safety of Chinese medicine.

There is clearly an urgent need to have a system of registered pharmacists dispensing Chinese medicine. Under the present regulations only 'responsible persons' can import, export or trade in Chinese medicine.

A responsible person is described as someone with a bachelor's degree, a diploma or a certificate from a 120-hour Chinese medicine course, or who has five years' practical experience dispensing/manufacturing Chinese medicine.

On the mainland, only registered pharmacists are recognised as 'responsible persons'.

There has been a massive increase in the number of Chinese medicine clinics and traditional health products.

A Chinese medicine pharmacist should be the gatekeeper, looking for a hidden danger in a product. Improvements are needed if we want to turn Hong Kong into a Chinese medicine hub.

Dawn Au, Hung Hom

Help citizens with manners

There have been some disturbing news reports following the opening of World Expo in Shanghai last month.

For example, some mainland visitors apparently sat on a piece of artwork, which is obviously not acceptable.

There were also chaotic scenes when thousands of people tried to get tickets for the expo park.

It is up to the authorities in Shanghai to deal with this. It must teach its citizens how to behave properly when they visit the expo park.

Everyone has been excited about expo, but if residents are ill-mannered it could spoil the experience for tourists. The authorities must recognise that there is room for improvement.

Shum Ka-ki, Tsuen Wan