Coroner rules fatal sea collision accidental, but notes safety lapses

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 November, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 November, 1999, 12:00am

Masters of two vessels that collided leaving five mainland fishermen dead failed to do their best to prevent the collision, an inquest was told yesterday.

A Marine Department investigation found both the master of an oil tanker and a fishing boat had not carried out their duties properly.

However, Coroner Paul Kelly recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Nine crew members were aboard the fishing boat Yue Lu Feng when it collided with the Panama-registered oil tanker Dignity near Poi Toi Island on December 6 last year.

Three were rescued, one was never found and the bodies of the other five were recovered. The five were So Ping-kam, 41, Li Man-chun, 21, Li Man-ki, 31, Li Wing-ching, 40, and Tsui Wing, 38.

The Singapore-bound Dignity was passing through East Lamma Channel and the fishing vessel was on its way back to Lufeng, Guangdong province.

Reading out the investigation report at the inquest, Marine Department surveyor of ships Fan Wai-biu said the masters of both vessels failed to follow the 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collision.

He said the oil tanker's Korean master, Kim Jung-bae, relied solely on experience to make a risk assessment, and when he spotted the fishing boat failed to make use of information provided by the Automatic Radar Plotting Aid.

The fishing boat master Li Kwan, who claimed not to have seen the oil tanker, had failed to take proper lookout precautions on the night of the accident when the weather was fine, Mr Fan said.

He added the fishing boat, which was stopping off in Hong Kong, should have avoided sailing near the East Lamma Channel.

Mr Kelly accepted the department's investigation report and said the accident was caused by a combination of factors. He concluded the five victims died as a result of an accident.

He said he was satisfied with the report's recommendations and follow-up action by the Marine Department, which had sent a copy of the report to the Panamanian authorities to consider action against the tanker's master.

A Chinese version of the report will be sent to the mainland's Fisheries Superintendency and to local fishermen's associations.

The Marine Department had also issued a notice to remind ships and crews to comply with safety regulations.