The South China Morning Post reported that the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department has pressed charges today against shipping company APL and the captain of the container ship which transported nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) armoured Terrex vehicles into the city from Taiwan in November without a required licence.
The armoured vehicles were seized in Hong Kong on 23 Nov while en route to Singapore from Taiwan, where they took part in a military exercise.
A lawyer based in London, Tan Wah Piow writing for this publication in December said that an industry expert informed him that “it’s a legal responsibility of exporter/shipper to ensure he has the right licences and custom permits to export/import military equipment of any kind.”
“Any military equipment is highly controlled and not easily transportable without government permits. That include transit permits.”
“The expert, having examined the strategic trade control system of Hong Kong, advised that there are stringent licensing control of strategic commodities in transit. The Armoured Personnel Carriers would come under Schedule 1 of the Import and Export (Strategic Commodities) Regulations of Hong Kong as the Munitions List covers items specially designed for military use. Transit licence is therefore required regardless of whether the shipper/ exporter is a government or government body.
She further said “From online reports, Hong Kong customs seized the cargo on the basis of suspicion of arms trafficking. I am guessing it is based on the position of the cargo on the vessel (loaded below deck and surrounded by conventional shipping containers, giving the impression of an attempt at concealment.
The shipper APL (the shipper) is well established in the industry, she acknowledged. How this incident could happen is therefore intriguing as APL ought to know that anyone transhipping military goods via Hong Kong must produce a transit licence. The Singapore Armed Forces as the exporter should likewise be aware of such a legal requirement.”