High-speed fleet for unit

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 March, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 March, 1994, 12:00am

SOME $6 million has been set aside for new high-speed craft to boost the ability of the police's crack Special Duties Unit to fight seaborne terrorists in Hong Kong waters.

Sea trials of prototype rigid-inflatable boats capable of more than 50 knots will start soon, following Finance Branch approval of money for a small fleet.

Police chiefs told the branch that the unit - known as the Flying Tigers - had to be better prepared to tackle terrorists at sea, given Hong Kong's position as the world's largest container port.

The force's most secretive unit had to be able to deal effectively with terrorists taking hostages aboard large cruise ships visiting Hong Kong or pirates threatening to scuttle a large tanker, the branch was told.

The demand for better craft for the unit - which goes to great lengths to conceal any public activity, including the wearing of black balaclavas during all operations and the use of vehicles disguised as cleaning vans - appeared briefly in Friday's Budget Estimates.

The matter appears under the operations section, saying special attention must be given to the development of ''sea logistical support for counter terrorist maritime capability''.

The deputy director of operations, Assistant Commissioner Brian Wigley, said the unit had traditionally relied on the Marine Police and small boat unit for back-up during any operation at sea, but now with smuggling such a priority, it had to have its own fleet.

''We in Hong Kong are in a situation where we are a maritime state, surrounded by water, so we have to be well prepared to tackle anything that may happen,'' Mr Wigley said.