Constant vigilance in Hongkong harbour

A NUMBER of misconceptions in the article ''Harbour on crash course with disaster'' (Sunday Morning Post, April 11) need clearing up. They broadly relate to the interpretation of recently released marine accident statistics, the implication that the MarineDepartment is not undertaking the necessary planning to reduce the risk of accidents, and the statement from a district board member that the department's Vessel Traffic Centre is ''crammed full of out-of-date equipment''.

Marine accident statistics relate to all reported incidents in Hongkong waters. The majority are minor ''scrapes'', where no injury to persons is involved. The difference between the 1991 and 1992 figures simply reflect the huge increase in the number ofvessels, of all kinds, using the port, and a greater awareness within the shipping community of the need to report incidents.

Cargo and passenger throughput forecasts dictate the need to develop the port through the provision of facilities and safety systems. Both are well provided for. In the case of safety, port state control inspections on vessels are being increased, the rearrangement of anchorages, fairways and traffic separation schemes are continuing in line with rising marine activity. A major consultancy study on the provision of pilotage services, a fundamental safety element in the port, will be completed in September.

The remark by the district board member was, at best, a lack of technical knowledge, and at worst a misinterpretation of the facts to support a tenuous relationship between accident levels and reclamation. The Marine Department's vessel traffic management system and equipment is among the most up-to-date in the world, and is continuously being upgraded. I have invited members of the Central and Western District Board to visit the centre and see the system and its equipment in action.

I. B. DALE Director of Marine (Acting)