The vessel containing armoured vehicles bound for Singapore stopped for a layover at Xiamen’s Haitian Container Terminals in Fujian, FactWire can reveal. Sources at Hong Kong Customs confirmed that the vessel had been found to contain undeclared military materials when it stopped at Xiamen. It contradicts a Customs statement earlier this week which said the discovery was made in Hong Kong during a “routine inspection”.
The informed sources told FactWire that before the vessel arrived at the Hong Kong port, Customs were informed by mainland law enforcement organisations that the vessel contained undeclared military materials, and did not have an approval notice. When it arrived in Hong Kong, Customs searched the vessel and confiscated relevant military materials.
See also: Hong Kong’s seizure of armoured vehicles ‘very sensitive’, Taiwan military sources say
A port worker told FactWire that a full team of officers was sent to search the vessel, when the usual practice for routine inspections is to send just two or three officers. The officers apparently were specific about searching the vessel when it arrived at the terminal.
FactWire tracked the vessel’s shipping route and itinerary on the company’s website, according to code numbers on the confiscated containers. The vessel, APL QATAR 041, belongs to French shipping company CMA CGM Group. According to the service schedules on the CMA CGM website, APL QATAR 041 set off from Kaohsiung port on November 21 and arrived at Haitian Container Terminals the same day. The vessel left Xiamen on November 22 and arrived in Hong Kong on November 23. It was originally scheduled to arrive in Singapore on November 29.
Using the Automatic Identification System (AIS) to track its location, FactWire discovered that the vessel arrived in Xiamen on November 21 at 6:24pm. It stayed for 16 hours, leaving on November 22 at 10:24am for Hong Kong. According to Marine Department arrivals reports, the APL QATAR 041, hoisting a Singapore flag, arrived Hong Kong’s Kwai Tsing Container Terminal 8 from Xiamen on November 23 at 8:32am. The departures reports show that the vessel was originally scheduled to leave Hong Kong on November 23 at 3pm. The vessel was delayed until November 24 at 5:37am, when it left to head for Chiwan port in Shenzhen.
FactWire asked Hong Kong Customs whether tip-offs about the vessel had been received from mainland departments or Xiamen port. Customs replied that they would not comment on operational issues.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said on November 25 that the government was verifying details about the seizure of the vehicles. He stated that foreigners and goods that enter and exit Hong Kong should abide by the relevant laws of the Special Administrative Region. He emphasised that China “has long been resolutely opposed to official exchanges, including military exchange and cooperation, between Taiwan and any countries that have diplomatic ties with China”.
Nine armoured vehicles, originally wrapped in blue and grey covers, were changed into green covers after the Customs investigation. Together with three containers carrying firearms and military materials, the consignment was moved on November 25 at midnight from Kwai Tsing Container Terminals to the Customs Cargo Examination Compound at Tuen Mun River Trade Terminal.
The Government of Singapore issued a statement on November 24 in the evening confirming that “a shipment of Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs) and associated equipment used by the SAF for overseas training was delayed at Hong Kong’s Kwai Chung Container Terminal (Kwai Tsing Container Terminals), due to a request for routine inspections by the Hong Kong Customs authorities. Singapore authorities are providing relevant assistance to the Hong Kong Customs and expect the shipment to return to Singapore expeditiously.”