Thu, Nov 22, 2007 - Page 5 News List

USS 'Kitty Hawk' awaiting permission to enter HK waters

AP , HONG KONG

Thousands of US sailors expecting to spend Thanksgiving in Hong Kong were still on their ships last night, waiting for permission to enter Hong Kong waters, US and Hong Kong officials said.

The USS Kitty Hawk and its support ships had been expected to arrive in Hong Kong yesterday morning for a five-day visit, but they were delayed because of problems with "administrative arrangements," the US consulate said in a statement.

Hong Kong's Marine Department, which handles logistic arrangements for ships docking in Hong Kong's deep-water port, said yesterday it had not received any documentation clearing the arrival of foreign military ships.

Foreign warships must receive diplomatic clearance from China's Foreign Office in Beijing before entering Hong Kong waters. The documentation is then passed to Hong Kong's immigration department and then finally to the Marine Department. It wasn't immediately clear where the delay happened.

US officials would not say how many of the nine ships were awaiting clearance.

Plans had been arranged for many of the sailors to have Thanksgiving dinner today with American families living in Hong Kong, said Joan Meccariello, chair of the Servicemen's Guide Association in Hong Kong.

The 46-year-old Kitty Hawk, which is based in the Japanese port city of Yokosuka, is the only US aircraft carrier permanently deployed abroad.

The diesel-powered ship will be decommissioned next year and replaced by the nuclear-powered USS George Washington.

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