For discussion FCR(96-97)75
on 29 November 1996


Subhead 603 Plant, vehicles and equipment

Members are invited to approve a commitment of
$40 million for the acquisition of a replacement fireboat.


Fireboat Alexander Grantham is reaching the end of its economic serviceable life after over 40 years of service.


2. The Director of Fire Services (D of FS), with the support of the Secretary for Security (S for S), proposes to replace the existing Fireboat Alexander Grantham.


3. Fireboat Alexander Grantham is a purpose-built, steel-hulled major fire-fighting vessel. It has on board fire pumps, deck monitors, foam making equipment, salvage suction equipment and a rigid-hulled speed boat for use as a work boat in shallow waters. It provides maritime fire cover to vessels berthed or anchored in the harbour and renders assistance to on-shore installations in close proximity to the harbour. It is one of the two major fireboats which has the capabilities to tackle fires on large ocean-going vessels with high superstructures and to serve as a command post and casualty collection point during major incidents.

4. Fireboat Alexander Grantham, commissioned in 1953, is of a riveted hull construction. Over the years there are distortion and corrosion near the keel. Since expertise in riveting in ship repairs no longer exists in Hong Kong, we can only replace the defective plates by welding. However, the welding process generates heat which has affected the adjacent riveted seams and caused leakage. This has necessitated frequent re-docking of the vessel and increased its downtime and maintenance cost. In 1995, the vessel had a downtime of about 100 days and the repair and maintenance cost amounted to $4.2 million. The Director of Marine (D of M) advises that the downtime and maintenance cost of the vessel will very soon develop to an unacceptable level. S for S, D of M and D of FS therefore consider it no longer cost-effective and acceptable from the operational point of view to continue to maintain the vessel.

5. In addition, during a recent annual routine overhaul, the D of M has identified major defects with the vessel and encountered maintenance difficulties. The 220V DC (direct current) electrical system has become obsolete. It is difficult to find spare parts for the DC motors, the components for the main switch board, the armature shafts for the generators and the manual starters for the air-conditioning system. The electrical cables, condenser unit, fan coil units, ventilation trunk and control systems are in poor condition and need complete replacement.

6. To enable the vessel to continue its service, we need to convert the electrical system and machinery on board to 380V/220V AC (alternating current) and to replace the whole air-conditioning system. The estimated cost of such major modification is about $3.5 million. Taking into account the high recurrent maintenance cost ($4.2 million in 1995) and the old age of the vessel, we consider such investment not cost-effective.

7. The proposed timetable for the procurement of the replacement vessel is as follows -


Design, specification preparation and tender processing

March 1997 to February 1998


Award of contract

February 1998


Construction, main deck finishing and installation of main engine

March 1998 to May 1999


Acceptance test

June 1999


Delivery of fireboat/final acceptance

July 1999


8. The D of FS estimates that the non-recurrent cost of procuring a replacement fireboat, installed with the necessary fire-fighting and communication equipment, is $40 million. This does not include the cost for a speed boat and portable fire-fighting and communication equipment as such equipment currently on board the existing Fireboat Alexander Grantham are still in serviceable condition. We shall therefore retain and transfer them to the new fireboat for use.

9. The estimated cashflow is as follows -

$ million









10. The D of FS estimates that the annually recurrent expenditure will be $2.7 million, made up as follows -

$ million

(a) Repairs and maintenance


(b) Other recurrent costs




11. As regards paragraph 10(a), the estimate of $2,400,000 is to cover the annual maintenance costs including the procurement of spare parts.

12. As regards paragraph 10(b), the estimate of $300,000 is to cover the operational expenses such as fuel and oil consumption.

13. We shall offset the recurrent expenditure of the replacement fireboat by that of the existing Fireboat Alexander Grantham which is $4.4 million. The net saving in recurrent expenditure is therefore $1.7 million. Since this is a replacement fireboat, there is no additional staffing requirement.

14. If Members approve the proposal, we will include sufficient provision in the 1997-98 draft Estimates and future estimates for the purpose.


15. The existing fireboat fleet comprises two major fireboats, two operational medium fireboats, one relief fireboat and one personnel carrier. There is under construction an additional fireboat, which will come into service when the River Trade Terminal in Tuen Mun is commissioned in 1998. Each fireboat carries out a specific role to provide water-based protection to Hong Kong waters. Any depletion in this protective network of fire coverage would have serious consequences for life and property.

16. We currently deploy four fireboats to provide fire cover at specific risk areas. Details of the coverage are at the Enclosure. Of the remaining two fireboats, one is a personnel carrier and the other - medium Fireboat No. 3 - is a relief vessel, for the replacement for which Members approved the commitment on 17 November 1995, vide FCR(95-96)74. As the entire fireboat fleet has an average annual downtime of 272 days, it is not feasible to dispense with this relief vessel and redeploy it to serve as an operational fireboat.

Security Branch
November 1996

Enclosure to FCR(96-97)75

Deployment of Existing Fireboats in Hong Kong Waters

Deployment of fireboat at


Central Harbour

To provide fire cover to vessels berthed or anchored in the harbour and to render assistance to on-shore installations in close proximity to the harbour.

Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter

To provide protection to Aberdeen harbour and typhoon shelter, East Lamma Channel, Tai Tam Bay, Lamma Island and its Power Station.

East side of Tsing Yi Island

To provide protection to oil tankers and container ships berthed at the nearby oil terminals, potentially hazardous installations and floating docks/shipyards.

Mui Wo

To provide protection to South-western Hong Kong Waters and West Lamma Channel.

Note: An additional fireboat for providing protection to the River Trade Terminal (RTT) and the related maritime activities in the Special Industrial Area (SIA) in Tuen Mun is now at the tender negotiation stage and will commence service in 1998.

Last Updated on 5 August 1999