Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said that the second meeting between the shipping firm APL and Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department to resolve the issue of the detention of the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICV) was held yesterday (1 December).
The formal reasons for the detention were not yet provided but customs officials hoped to complete their investigation soon.
APL and the Hong Kong Department had a seven hours meeting which started at 10.30am.
The first meeting between the two parties was held on 29 November from 2pm to 9pm.
MINDEF stated that it had advised APL to give its full cooperation to the Hong Kong authorities in order to expedite the recovery of the SAF’s assets.
The SAF team in Hong Kong also reported a new observation where the Hong Kong Customs have added security guards stationed 24-hours at the site housing the Terrex ICVs.
According to the South China Morning Post yesterday, the shipment was impounded by Hong Kong Customs as the shipping company failed to provide appropriate permits for the vehicles.
It said that 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.
A licence is required for the import, export, re-export or transhipment of strategic commodities under Hong Kong’s Import and Export Ordinance. The maximum penalty for failing to obtain a licence is an unlimited fine and seven years’ imprisonment.
The shipment of Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs) and associated equipment were seized on 23 November by the Hong Kong customs belong to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) after an inspection carried out due to a tip-off. The vehicles were used for SAF’s overseas training in Taiwan.
On 28 November, China announced that it has lodged a protest with Singapore after nine armoured infantry carrier vehicles (IFVs) from Singapore along with other equipment were seized by Hong Kong customs.
“China has already made representations over this to the Singapore side,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing on Monday.
Earlier on 25 November, when asked about the seized cargo, the China spokesman had reiterated that the Chinese government is firmly opposed to any forms of official interaction between Taiwan and countries that have diplomatic relations with China, military exchanges and cooperation included.
In response to what the China Ministry have said, Chief of Army Major-General (MG) Melvyn Ong stated at a media briefing at Choa Chu Kang Camp on Tuesday (29 November) that there was nothing unusual about the nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs) transiting in Hong Kong and it was a purely commercial decision for the ship carrying the vehicles to have stopped in Xiamen before going to Hong Kong before they were seized by China.
MG Ong said that commercial shipping of military equipment is somewhat a “norm” for many countries, saying, “It’s a commonly adopted means. Many militaries use it consistently… during peacetime training. It’s the most cost-effective and efficient means of transporting large amounts of equipment.”
He also said, “We have a system in place to ensure how this is done properly. We have an established system for engaging commercial companies. All are required to comply with stringent requirements to protect against tampering and theft – for example, we lock; double lock some containers to ensure the security of goods on board.”