• Mon
  • Jul 14, 2014
  • Updated: 4:25pm
Lamma ferry disaster

Marine Police should re-examine the job they do

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 October, 2012, 12:48am

First, my thoughts go out to each and everyone who died or was injured in the ferry accident on Monday.

It is important to hold those at fault accountable, but is it only those who were on board the vessels who contributed?

I hold a Class 1 pleasure vessel licence and have done a lot of boating in Hong Kong.

On a regular basis, when I go out in my small boat, the Marine Police stop me and check my licence. Getting tired of this, I asked them why they keep stopping me. Their answer was: "Look around you. Not many boats in this part of Hong Kong. We have to stop someone."

Conversely, I was south of Peng Chau last week when I conflicted with a First Ferry travelling at high speed towards Hong Kong Island. Under the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea published by the International Maritime Organisation, I clearly had the right of way. A small course change from the ferry was all that was needed. However, there was no course change and no intention of giving way to a smaller vessel. I had to stop. This blatant disregard for the rules is endemic in Hong Kong and should not be accepted. The fact is, though, that when this incident happened, the Marine Police were just 400 metres away in their high-speed patrol vessel. They chose to do nothing, and this is not an unusual occurrence.

The causes in this tragedy are more complex than just arresting and charging the crews of the vessels involved. The police commissioner should ask himself whether his force, and as their representative, he, should take some responsibility. Better still, make some changes and have the Marine Police start really doing something about the many dangerous activities on our waters before more accidents occur.

This accident was, sadly, not a surprise. The real surprise was that it didn't happen sooner.

Jules Tidmarsh, Discovery Bay


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I also hold a Class 1 license which I obtained after rigorous examination at the Marine Department in Hong Kong. I concur with Mr. Tidmarsh that high speed ferries are especially bad. They seem to be the marine equivalent of minibusses.
Captain Pugwash doesn't seem to understand that recreational boaters are the bane of professional mariners the world over. Most of us appreciate this and give them a wide berth.
It's not just the marine police. Hong Kong's roads are plagued by aggressive, dangerous drivers, who act with impunity due to a lack police attention.
Mr. Tidmarsh probably completed quite intensive study courses and passed rigorous examinations to qualify for his pleasure vessel licences but do most people realize that there are hundreds of people afloat driving high-peed boats in Hong Kong, who have obtained their Coxwain and Engineer Operators permits by other devious means?
The Director of Marine is able to give exemptions and partial exemptions to ‘recognized’ licence applicants if they hold ‘certificates’ or equivalent maritime licences from other jurisdictions.
Scenario: You are a local Hong Kong person living in Sai Kung or Aberdeen and would like to operate a high speed motor boat as a “grey” legal water taxi or perhaps seek a job as a qualified Coxwain and boatboy for a rich executive who keeps his launch moored there.
The examination looks far too complicated and hard (it is, and rightly so). So next best option: you seek out a certain local fisherman and give him copies of your ID card, Chinese home-visit permit and $6,000. About a month later you have your own mainland-issued marine “driving licence”. You take this to the Marine Department with a couple of photographs and sit the simplified oral test for those with ‘partial exemptions’.... just a handful of questions which are pretty standard each time.
Hey presto! you have your own Hong Kong marine licences even though you haven’t the faintest idea about the rules of the sea. Not for expats though.


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