Crews of Hong Kong-registered ships in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden are getting double pay as they pass through the high-risk zone. The 100 per cent bonuses are being paid under an agreement signed at a meeting of the International Bargaining Forum in Hong Kong in November. Death and disability compensation rates are also doubled while in the gulf, where numerous ships have been seized by Somali pirates. The agreement applies to about 900 vessels that are registered in Hong Kong or owned by shipowners here. Captain Chung Tung-tong, the general secretary of Hong Kong's Merchant Navy Officers' Guild, said it took two days for vessels to pass through the Gulf of Aden. An experienced captain earned about US$10,000 a month, so the daily salary was about HK$2,600, Captain Chung said. Under the agreement, crew members also have the option of leaving the ship before entering the zone. Navy vessels from countries including China, the United States and Britain escort the ships through the designated corridor. Captain Chung said Hong Kong vessels seeking protection from the Chinese navy had to file an application with the Marine Department. He said the guild did not support crew members resisting pirates because it endangered their lives.