Hong Kong Customs craft in fatal collision with suspected smuggling vessel

Hong Kong Customs inshore patrol RHIB. Photo: Hong Kong Customs and Excise

Three officers of the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department (HKCE) were killed on the night of January 21, when their patrol craft collided with a suspected smuggling vessel in waters near Hong Kong International Airport. Two officers survived, and were rescued by police vessels, and a fireboat.

According to local reports, the HKCE vessel, CE 13, a China-built, 50-knot, twin outboard engine-powered cabin RHIB, commissioned in 2016, was engaged in an operation against the illegal importation of frozen meat. An abandoned 30-metre steel-hulled cargo vessel, heavily laden with frozen meat, was subsequently seized.

A well-placed Hong Kong source told Baird Maritime that probably more than one smuggling vessel was involved, and that the seized vessel had been abandoned by its crew prior to the collision. No arrests have been made, and inquiries continue

There have recently been a number of successful interceptions by HKCE craft of vessels illegally transhipping uninspected frozen meat, originating from a number of different countries, through Hong Kong waters to the People’s Republic of China.

HKCE operates a substantial fleet, including middle water, and inshore, patrol craft, and fast interceptors. The department is particularly active in the western approaches to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Trevor Hollingsbee

Maritime security expert and columnist, Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police, Assistant Secretary for Security in the British Hong Kong Government Security Branch, and Intelligence Analyst in the UK Ministry of Defence. As an independent defence and security analyst he has had some 1,500 articles on maritime security, and geopolitical topics, published in a range of international journals and newspapers. He is an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute, and a past Vice-Chairman of the Institute’s Hong Kong branch.