Police speed up smuggling fight

MORE powerful engines are being fitted to speedboats seized from smugglers to help police catch the boats that are shipping goods and illegal immigrants across the border.

A source close to the Anti-Smuggling Task Force said officers had found it difficult with their existing fleet to pursue the ''super speedboats'' used by some smugglers.

Equipping the speedboats with five outboard engines would prevent vessels operated by syndicates, which also had five engines, from having the advantage in task force operations.

''When all our new anti-smuggling speedboats are ready for operation we will have the upper hand in intercepting those syndicate-operated speedboats coming into Hongkong to smuggle cars and other contraband goods into the mainland,'' the source said.

Officers hope the newly overhauled boats will be able to put to sea soon.

''We will be carrying no cargo on board and will be much lighter and can go much faster than those speedboats smuggling unmanifested goods out of Hongkong,'' one officer said.

Task force officers started using seized speedboats late last year to assist Marine Police launches in chasing smugglers' speedboats.

Officers said they were determined to eradicate syndicates that operated tai feis (high-powered speedboats) involved in smuggling activities. The officers believe there is a fleet of up to 16 such boats plying between Hongkong and Huidong as well as other Chinese ports.

But police have also recently discovered that some smugglers appear to be switching to land routes.