Police search teams are bracing for a heavier workload as Hong Kong pledges to host more international conventions. Superintendent George K. K. Lee, head of the police search unit, said yesterday that his team faced challenges because of the increased need to search conference venues, especially when international VIPs, like former US president Bill Clinton, visit. Established in 1992, the unit is responsible for undertaking major search operations. It includes a police dog unit to search for drugs, firearms, explosive and bio-chemical weapons, a team searching skyscrapers and convention centres, and a team equipped for underground searches. The force has 500 policemen trained in the field, and all of them will be deployed from their original posting during a major operation. As the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai will finish its second expansion in March, rentable space will increase from 750,000 sq ft to 1,000,000. Mr Lee estimated that searching time for the venue will increase from six days to 71/2 days for every operation. In his policy address last year, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen pledged to establish Hong Kong as an international convention and exhibition capital. A host of events are planned in the city, such as the East Asian Games next year. For the Olympic equestrian events, the police search team deployed 700 officers over more than 25,000 man hours to secure the safety of the venues. Mr Lee said the biggest difficulty was the huge area of venues. Police needed 18 days to complete a full search operation on the Beas River venue. The officers are provided with advanced search equipment, such as handheld ion scanners to detect chemical and explosive substances, inspection cameras and metal detectors. German shepherd and Malinois police dogs were trained to detect explosives before the Games. Apart from searches ahead of major international events in Hong Kong, the team also participates in collecting evidence at crime scenes and hunting for missing bodies.