Thanks to a fleet of US$1 million boats, officers are now as quick as smugglers Adrenalin junkie Dom Hibell describes the bone-jarring sensation of hurtling across the open ocean at more than 110km/h in pursuit of high-speed powerboat smugglers as like 'being on the space ride at a game park'. 'Except that it can often last for up to three hours at a time,' says the anti-smuggling taskforce police officer. 'Throw into the mix the fact it is mostly at night and you cannot see the next wave coming or brace yourself for the next hit ... it can make it all quite challenging.' Mr Hibell has been chasing speedboat smugglers since the early nineties - back when the waters off Sai Kung were awash with the wake of dozens of powerboats streaming out of Port Shelter. 'During the early days we had nothing that could catch them,' he said. 'They would see us coming and just zoom past ... it was very frustrating.' But then Hong Kong's law-enforcement agencies began fighting fire with fire and entered the high-speed pursuit game aboard confiscated daai fei speedboats. More than 6,500 fast-moving craft - shifting everything from stolen luxury cars to diesel and consumer goods - were detected at the peak of the smuggling era in 1990. 'We had to come up with a way to make them stop. Usually they would ignore our orders to cut the engines and heave to,' said Mr Hibell. 'Most often they would try to outrun us to the border.' Recognising the urgent need for an appropriate deterrent measure, authorities provided the marine police with five of the sleek cigar-shaped black Cougartek powercraft in 1999. With each vessel worth US$1 million and powered by three inboard 500-horsepower engines with a top speed of 75 knots and a roaring external muffler, the anti-smuggling taskforce enjoyed quick successes. 'Riding in one of these boats is like the difference between travelling in a Hong Kong taxi and a Formula One racing car,' said Rod Mason, the taskforce chief. 'It is very powerful and slices through the water. It is a very good bit of kit.'