SAF deploys team to Hong Kong to secure seized armoured vehicles

SINGAPORE - A team from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) are en route to Hong Kong to ensure the security of nine armoured vehicles seized by local customs authorities.

The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) revealed that commercial shipping line APL (American President Lines) was contracted to transport the nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICV) and associated equipment back to Singapore after an overseas training exercise.

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Stressing that there is no ammunition or sensitive equipment on board, Mindef said in a statement that APL was required to comply with all regulations, including obtaining the necessary permits and declarations required to transit through ports.

The merchant vessel transporting the SAF vehicles was later seized by Hong Kong customs officials during a during a routine inspection at Hong Kong's Kwai Chung Container Terminal.

Hong Kong customs officials told news agency FactWire that 12 containers suspecting of containing controlled items were discovered when the ship was docked at the port.

"APL officials have assured the SAF that they are working with Hong Kong authorities to resolve the issue," Mindef said in its statement.

"The Singapore Consulate General in Hong Kong is also assisting in this matter."

Noting that this incident was unprecedented, Mindef said that the existing requirements for civilian contractors have been effective over the years.

The statement said: "All commercial shipping lines used by the SAF are required to comply with stringent requirements for protection against theft and tampering of equipment during the shipment, in addition to applying for all relevant permits.

An SAF Terrex Infantry Carrying Vehicle. Photo: The Straits Times

"The SAF will review the circumstances of this incident and determine if added measures are required to prevent such occurrences."

The Terrex vehicles are currently barricaded by over 30 containers, and is only visible by aerial view, with two Hong Kong customs officials on guard.

APL is currently owned by French container and shipping company CMA CGM, which bought over Singapore-based Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) this year.

grongloh@sph.com.sg