The Hong Kong Branch AGM was held recently, and a new branch committee was elected. The office bearers for 1998/99 are: chairman: David Coldwell, vice chairman: Eric Edmondson, treasurer: Purvez Umflgar, secretary: Rhod McNeill.
Following the formal meeting, a presentation was made by Alex Hul of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects regarding the government's proposed future land reclamations affecting the harbour. In particular he reviewed the scheme intending to join Green Island to Hong Kong Island which will eliminate Sulphur Channel, one of the main routes used by smaller vessels between Lamma Channel and Victoria Harbour. As a consequence of the presentation, a formal letter of objection to the intended reclamation was sent to the Town Planning board, protesting that this reclamation would increase the risk of collisions and pollution in the central harbour area. Our objection, together with several others, is receiving considering from the board.
Branch membership has declined in the past year, due mainly to the departure of expatriates, and the current committee is attempting to make the branch of more relevance to our Chinese members.
During the year the branch assisted in the organisation of the International Symposium of Shipbuilding and Ship Repairing held in Guangzhou, PRC.
Also during the past year, four technical presentations were given on the following topics: pollution clean-up: the Sea Empress grounding; corporate planning for marine casualties; ISM; independence, mechanics and problems; and the master's responsibility with respect to illegal cargo. Of these, the last is probably of the greatest interest to sea-going members.
Peter Mills, of lawyers Stephenson, Harwood and Lo, discussed a case in which an armoured personnel carrier was being carried as transit cargo on board a ship that visited Hong Kong. Local regulations require that all munition cargoes in transit must be manifested and import and export licences obtained. In this instance, due to errors at the loading port, the Hong Kong manifest did not show this transit cargo and the Hong Kong agent failed to apply for the necessary licences. Acting on information received, customs personnel (accompanied by the media) searched the vessel and detained virtually all of the crew for questioning. The ship's master, chief officer and boatswain were then detained in custody without bail for ten days.
Advice given to members to avoid similar occurrences is to keep a cheek on what cargo is being loaded and report anything unusual to owners. If possible, refuse to load a suspicious cargo until its nature has been identified. Manifests, if available, should be checked and Hong Kong agents informed if there is any cargo on board that may require import and export licences, even if that cargo is only in transit.
Contributed by Rhod McNell MNI
Seaways October 1998