A spectacular fireworks display lighted up the sky above the Victoria Harbour on 1 October. In fact, behind every successful fireworks display are the joint efforts of various government departments, of which the Mines Division of the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) plays an important part. This time, I have invited colleagues from the Mines Division to take us on board the barge where fireworks are installed and set off. They will talk about their work and, in particular, the way to ensure that a large-scale fireworks display will be conducted smoothly and safely.
This year’s National Day Fireworks Display featured eight scenes. A total of 31 888 firing shells were discharged from four barges in the Victoria Harbour in a 23-minute extravaganza. Fireworks in Hong Kong usually include aerial shells, candles and cakes (pictured). The aerial shells are 3 to 7 inches in diameter and can shoot up to 300 metres into the sky. Different types of fireworks with different patterns, colours and discharge altitudes can produce a dazzling array of visual effects.
Monitoring the setting off of fireworks from barges
To find out more about all kinds of preparation behind a large-scale fireworks display, our colleagues went on board one of the fireworks barges berthing at the Western Dangerous Goods Anchorage in the Victoria Harbour a week ago. On that day, fireworks crew was busy installing fireworks and the entire process was monitored and inspected by colleagues from the Mines Division on the spot. Acting Chief Explosives Officer of the Mines Division, Mr WOO Kwok-wa, told colleagues that the barge carried seven steel sand boxes packed with mortars from 3 to 7 inches in diameter. The crew would first place the aerial shells into the mortars at a preset angle, link up the wires for discharge control to the connection unit, and finally connect them all to the central computer.
During the discharge of fireworks, a fireworks master and a fireworks assistant will stay on the barge and monitor the entire discharge process through a built-in programme in the central computer. In case of accidents, they can stop the discharge from the barge with a brake lever anytime. It is interesting to know that the fireworks master has to continuously hold the brake lever during the entire fireworks display which lasts over 20 minutes. If he loosens his grip, the computerised operation will stop and so will the discharge of fireworks.
Providing professional and technical support
Colleagues of the Mines Division will begin their preparation work two months before the fireworks display. According to a geotechnical engineer of the CEDD, Mr KONG Wai-chuen, the Mines Division will maintain close contact with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the Marine Department and other relevant departments, sponsors and production companies. From preparation to the day of the fireworks display and thereafter, the Mines Division will follow up on the whole project and provide technical support all the way through.
The professional team of the Mines Division will give expert advice on the technical details, positions of the barges, and installation arrangements in relation to the discharge of fireworks; assist in vetting applications for the importation of fireworks into Hong Kong; and monitor the entire process of the fireworks set-up and circuit testing. Throughout the fireworks display, our colleagues will oversee the discharge of fireworks. Even after the show, they still cannot let down their guard and will supervise the searching for any misfired shells on the barges or along the harbourfront. If found, the fireworks will be transported to a designated government explosives depot for destruction.
Ensuring safety in the installation and use of fireworks
Fireworks are classified as dangerous goods and their conveyance, storage, installation and use have to be handled with caution at every step to ensure safety above everything else.
According to Acting Explosives Officer I, Mr POON Tin-wah, fireworks masters and fireworks assistants are required to pass an examination each year to qualify for the handling of fireworks. Besides, every barge carrying fireworks is equipped with adequate fire service installations such as fire extinguishers and water pumps. No open flame or equipment which can cause sparks or flames is allowed on the barge. At night, a fireworks assistant and a security guard will stay on the barge to ensure that no theft or accident occurs. After the barge berths at the designated area in the Victoria Harbour, certain parts of its surrounding areas will be zoned as restricted areas. A distance of at least 150 metres must be kept between the barge carrying fireworks and other vessels at all times, except for those with special permission.
I am very pleased to have our colleagues share their work with us, and we now know that behind the scenes of every smooth and safe fireworks display, frontline members including the professional team of the Mines Division are the unsung heroes who work diligently to serve the public. I believe that the public’s laughter and cheers for every spectacular scene of a fireworks display are their biggest reward.
7 October, 2018Back