TOUGH laws are being drafted to force Chinese ships passing through Hong Kong to declare dangerous goods, as growing numbers of vessels use the congested Ma Wan channel to get to mainland ports. Ships only have to provide lists of dangerous goods if they are coming to Hong Kong, but not if they are leaving or passing through local waters. But Marine Department fears of a major accident as ships round the Ma Wan bend between the northern tip of Lantau Island and Tsuen Wan, have sparked the need for more information. Ma Wan's deep, swift waters grant some of the only access to the Castle Peak coal-fired power station, much of the Pearl River delta and the Chinese port of Shekou. Director of Marine Allan Pyrke said: ''We can't even say how much dangerous cargo is passing through Hong Kong's waters on these Chinese ships . . . We simply don't know and that's a worry. ''If there is an accident speed is of the essence. We can't afford to wait seven hours to call another port to find out what's on board a particular ship. We need to know at the touch of a button. ''We are hoping new laws will allow us to have full dangerous goods manifests well in advance of a ship's passing through Hong Kong.'' The Hong Kong Shipping Staff Association yesterday urged the department to reveal its contingency plans for an accident in the channel, submerged wreckage from which could block coal supplies to the power station and slow trade to a trickle. Mr Pyrke said it would be ''highly unlikely'' for the channel to be blocked but confirmed disaster plans had been prepared, including back-up oil supplies to the power station. Chinese officials, particularly in Shekou, would be consulted on the need for more information on dangerous goods. The Government does not know what dangerous goods China plans to ship through its rapidly developing southern ports. The proposed changes to the Dangerous Goods (Shipping) Ordinance would force all ships to give the department a list of goods detailed in a schedule of about 5,000 items prepared by the United Nation's International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Mr Pyrke said the public need not be alarmed as many of the items included cargoes only dangerous to the ship and crew, including coal, cotton and even card-board toe inserts for shoes . Most fuels, gases and oils are also included and the territory already has legislation governing the movement of radioactive material. All shipping nations were also bound to stow dangerous goods correctly under IMO rules. Department officials were now studying regulations from foreign ports but no time-table for introduction to the Legislative Council had been worked out. However, the department was aiming to have strict new shipping lanes in place for the channel by the end of the year and a 24-man vessel control centre running 24 hours a day by the end of next year. Mr Pyrke said he had long feared a major accident in the area, now facing increased barge and dredger traffic for the new airport work and also river trade craft. Operators must battle some of the stiffest tides on the China coast, sometimes reaching five knots. Marine Department investigations are continuing into last week's fatal collision between a local fishing boat and a Guangzhou-bound ferry, which left six fishermen dead.