Seized SAF vehicles: APL meets HK Customs again

The military vehicles, under tarpaulin at a Hong Kong Customs facility in Tuen Mun, were seized on Nov 23.
The military vehicles, under tarpaulin at a Hong Kong Customs facility in Tuen Mun, were seized on Nov 23.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Shipping firm APL had a second meeting with the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department yesterday to resolve the issue of the nine Singapore infantry carrier vehicles seized in Hong Kong last week, said the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).

Formal reasons for the detention have yet to be provided, although Customs officials are hopeful of completing their investigation soon, Mindef added in a statement.

The two parties had met for seven hours on Tuesday. Their meeting yesterday started at 10.30am.

Mindef has "advised APL to give its full cooperation to the Hong Kong authorities" in order to expedite the recovery of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) assets.

It added that Hong Kong Customs have added security guards stationed round the clock at the site housing the Terrex vehicles.

An APL spokesman said it "continues to extend its full cooperation to the Hong Kong authorities and work with various stakeholders".

 

Quoting sources, the South China Morning Post reported yesterday that the shipment was impounded by Hong Kong Customs as the shipping company failed to provide appropriate permits for the vehicles.

It is understood that the local authorities were still investigating whether the military vehicles and components in 12 shipping containers were declared in full detail in the cargo manifest, it added.

Under Hong Kong's Import and Export Ordinance, a licence is required for the import, export, re-export or transhipment of strategic commodities. The maximum penalty for failing to obtain a licence is an unlimited fine and seven years' imprisonment.

APL was transporting the vehicles to Singapore after a military exercise in Taiwan when they were seized on Nov 23.

The SAF has said it conducts overseas training in a dozen or so territories and hires commercial shipping lines to transport military equipment. Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Tuesday said it is the norm for militaries to use commercial carriers to ship equipment for peacetime training.

The detention has attracted international attention as China voiced its unhappiness. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing is opposed to countries with which it has diplomatic ties having official exchange with Taiwan, and asked Singapore to adhere to the "one China" policy. China regards Taiwan as a renegade province.

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, addressing the issue at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum on Tuesday, said Singapore has believed in the "one China" policy since establishing diplomatic ties with China over 25 years ago.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2016, with the headline 'Seized SAF vehicles: APL meets HK Customs again'. Print Edition | Subscribe