Hong Kong Customs confiscated nine armoured vehicles this week at Kwai Chung Container Terminal 8, FactWire discovered on Thursday. Sources have since confirmed with FactWire that the consignment was shipped by APL, a subsidiary of French container transportation and shipping company CMA CGM Group.
Shipped from Kaohsiung of Taiwan and bound for Singapore, the twelve containers included nine armoured vehicles and three containers carrying firearms for training and military materials. Military sources from Taiwan told FactWire that the seizure of the armoured vehicles is “very sensitive as it involves international affairs, and would be carefully handled by Taiwan”.
The Government of Singapore issued a statement on Thursday 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, 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.”
Photos provided by citizens to media showed a blue license plate for military use on one of armoured vehicles, which was printed with “軍 X-15245”. The design of the license plate matches those of vehicles of Taiwan’s military forces.
FactWire made an enquiry with Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence as to whether the armoured vehicles concerned belong to Taiwan’s Government and whether it was transported by the Government to Singapore. The spokesperson stated that the armoured vehicles are “not military materials of the Republic of China” and “the Ministry would make no further comment”.
However, military sources from Taiwan told FactWire that “since the case is very sensitive, we could not confirm anything at the moment. Explanations would be given after inspection. This case involves international affairs and is relatively more sensitive.” When asked if they feared the case could provoke Beijing, the source said: “We would deal with this case seriously and proper inspections would be done.”
Informed sources from the Kaohsiung Port admitted to FactWire that Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence would transport military materials to Singapore through the Kaohsiung Port and that “the Ministry would normally only inform relevant departments, not through regular import and export declarations but through more simplified procedures”.
FactWire reporters went to APL’s office in Kwun Tong Thursday afternoon and tried to understand more about the case. No one at the office was able to address FactWire’s enquiries.
In response to FactWire’s enquiries on Thursday, the Hong Kong Customs stated that the customs officers “discovered twelve containers suspected of containing controlled items during a routine inspection at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals yesterday (23 Nov). The containers were found on a vessel from Taiwan bound for Singapore. Customs officers would take appropriate follow-up actions.”
Informed sources provided photos to FactWire yesterday evening (23 Nov), which showed that the nine confiscated vehicles are Terrex AV-81 Infantry Carrier Vehicles.
Jointly developed by Ireland and Singapore – the same prototype appeared during the Singapore National Day Parade 2015 which celebrated the nation’s 50th anniversary.
The host of the parade stated that the vehicle “provides infantry troopers with enhanced mobility, protection and fire power, enabling them to maneuver to the battlefield quickly and safely”. Sources showed that the prototype was developed by Ireland-based Timoney Technology Limited and Singapore Technologies Kinetics Ltd.
Singapore and Taiwan have close military relations. An agreement was ratified in 1975 under which Taiwan’s military helps train Singaporean troops in the “Starlight Exercise”. The Taiwanese media named the Singaporean troops “Starlight Troops”.
Soldiers who participate in the “Starlight Exercise” include the artillery and armoured forces. However, as cooperation between the Singaporean and Chinese military forces increased in recent years, fewer Singaporean troops participate in the “Starlight Exercise”.