Snowball effect 'easier to detect with hindsight'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 December, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 December, 1998, 12:00am

Airport Authority officials said they might have 'misjudged' the issues responsible for the opening-day chaos.

Submissions from the authority's counsel said the body did not foresee the snowball effect that resulted from the individual problems on day one.

The authority apologised and regretted the chaos but maintained the problems were short-lived and not due to lack of effort on its part.

Problems easily seen in hindsight were not noticeable at the time.

The authority denied there were no contingency plans, citing the airport's quick recovery.

'The failure to see the snowball effect brought about by the complex interaction of a series of particular deficiencies may, with 20-20 hindsight, appear to be worthy of criticism,' it said.

'Contingencies were planned for and generally they functioned effectively, permitting the airport to make a speedy recovery from the operational deficiencies of opening day.

'The authority much regrets and has publicly apologised for the serious inconvenience caused and the subsequent embarrassment felt by many in Hong Kong.

'Evidence clearly shows it was not due to any lack of effort or dedication - certain issues may have been misjudged.

'They did not foresee the snowball effect.' Reacting to claims of a rift and lax communication within the authority between the project and management divisions, the paper said: 'It is inevitable in all large projects and enterprises that activity centres have to function separately in order to make manageable the tasks that have to be performed - a degree of compartmentalisation is inevitable.

'The commission should make due allowance for the inevitable lack of a bird's-eye view and recognise that persons in particular departments or divisions must necessarily give priority to ensuring that their own particular responsibilities are carried out.' The counsel, headed by Robert Ribeiro SC, said the rapid and enduring recovery of Chek Lap Kok gave testimony to the efforts, competence and commitment of authority staff.