SINGAPORE: Hong Kong's decision to return the nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles to Singaporeafter detaining them for two months is "a positive outcome", said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Wednesday (Jan 25).
He added that the Terrexes will take a week to travel back once they are released to commercial shipping firm APL, which has assured the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) that the shipment will take a direct route to Singapore from Hong Kong.
"The seaward passage from Hong Kong to Singapore directly will take about a week. Hopefully the Terrexes can leave Hong Kong soon and arrive back in Singapore to celebrate reunion for Chap Goh Meh," said Dr Ng.
Chap Goh Meh in the Hokkien dialect refers to the 15th night of Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb 11 this year.
"APL has told us that they will make special efforts to expedite the process despite this being a Chinese New Year weekend," Dr Ng told reporters on the sidelines of a defence exercise. "We will keep Singaporeans updated about the progress and the journey of the SAF Terrexes."
On Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung informed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that authorities have completed their investigations and will be releasing the military vehicles and other equipment through APL.
The shipping firm was supposed to transport the vehicles back to Singapore from Taiwan in November last year after a military training exercise, but Hong Kong Customs seized the shipment while it was in transit at its port due to a suspected licensing breach.
When asked about details of Hong Kong's investigation, Dr Ng said: "We said from the outset of this episode that we've encouraged APL to comply with all rules and regulations required by the Hong Kong port, that continues to be our position."
The defence minister added that the decision to return the Terrexes "reflects good and friendly relations between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China and Singapore."