THE Government is to launch a major campaign to clear the harbour of floating rubbish, acting Governor Anson Chan Fang On-sang has revealed. A blitz on local shipyards, joint land and sea patrols to clean up refuse black spots, as well as a $150 million fleet of new purpose-built rubbish-collecting vessels, are all part of a get-tough package finalised by senior officials last week. The land-sea patrols will begin by the end of next month. ''It's not a problem that's going to go away overnight and that's why we need to take concerted action on a number of fronts,'' Mrs Chan said. Floating rubbish is increasingly becoming a hazard to Hong Kong's shipping, with hundreds of ferries damaged and delayed every month because it clogs their propellors. Mrs Chan ordered the campaign after a recent tour of Hong Kong waters with legislators, and seeing what she called ''the disgraceful state of our harbour''. Details were finalised at a meeting last Monday but have yet to be officially announced. The operation will be co-ordinated by a marine and shoreline refuse working group, chaired by acting Director of Marine Ian Dale. Mrs Chan said a government survey found that 80 per cent of floating refuse originally came from land - but it would cost $2,000 a tonne to collect at sea, as opposed to $320 a tonne on land. Until now, rubbish littering the more remote areas of Hong Kong's coastline has been left to wash out into the harbour because such areas are inaccessible to land-based rubbish trucks. But now, under the new scheme, shoreline rubbish will be collected every day by sea. At present, any refuse collection is carried out - at most - once or twice a week. Government teams will also launch a blitz on local shipyards to check if they are throwing rubbish into the sea, and to step up the collection of rubbish from open drainage sites and water courses, where it may otherwise drain into the sea. Urban Services Department staff cleaning officer Wong Siu-wing said the new land-sea operation would target refuse black spots on the south side of Hong Kong Island, such as the small beaches between Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay. Mrs Chan confirmed tenders had also been invited to provide a new fleet of purpose-built rubbish collecting vessels - expected to cost around $150 million. Although they will not be in use before the end of next year, they are expected to make a major contribution to the harbour clean-up since private contractors the Government will hire to operate them will be paid according to how much rubbish they collect. She said the Government would review whether stiffer penalties were necessary. Those littering the harbour can be fined up to $10,000 - but only if they are caught in the act of throwing refuse into the sea. Ferry companies welcomed the Government's new initiative. ''Floating refuse is a very serious problem and we hope the comprehensive scheme can solve it,'' Hong Kong Ferries spokesman Cecilia Ko Yuk-kwai said. Ms Ko said the company now faced about 100 cases a month of ferry delays, especially on the Tuen Mun-Central hoverferry route, because of floating refuse clogging up propellors. The company last year spent more than $100 million on ferry repairs because of refuse-related problems. ''We know there is no way that all this rubbish can be taken out of the harbour, but we believe the Government's plan could greatly reduce the amount,'' said Ms Ko.