The Marine Department issued a total of 1,488 summonses for various marine offences during 1996, with the most severe penalty being a $50,000 fine, Secretary for Economic Services Stephen Ip says. The offences involved breaches of marine traffic rules and pollution regulations, failure to carry the required life-saving equipment and failure to have qualified masters or engineers on board, Mr Ip said. He said Marine Department officers assessed the skills and operational knowledge of masters and engineers before allowing them to serve on high-speed passenger craft registered in Hong Kong. 'Masters and engineers serving on mainland high-speed craft operating in Hong Kong waters are certified by mainland maritime authorities and recognised by the Marine Department,' he said. High-speed craft operators were kept closely informed of the safety requirements, speed limits and traffic conditions of Hong Kong waters through Marine Department notices and other Marine Department publications, he added. Mr Ip said the Marine Department carried out annual inspections of all Hong Kong-registered passenger vessels and their safety devices. In addition, occasional spot checks were carried out on passenger vessels entering Hong Kong waters to ensure compliance with requirements. In recent years, the department had not found any serious violations of safety requirements on passenger vessels, Mr Ip said.