Lamma ferry disaster
A boat owned by Hongkong Electric carrying more than 100 staff workers and their family members collided with a ferry in waters off Lamma Island at about 8.20pm on October 1, 2012. More than 100 passengers on the boat fell into the water. Thirty-nine people were confirmed dead after the accident. This is the deadliest boat accident in Hong Kong in 40 years.
New era of marine safety needed
The Marine Department is facing a rough time in the wake of the Lamma ferry tragedy.
There is no doubt lessons are learned, procedures are tightened, and rightfully demands for more resources are formulated.
However, all those professionally involved in safety know that no matter how strictly one regulates or polices a process, a safe operation can be achieved only when the participants in this process exercise a high level of safety awareness. Safety comes from within, not from the outside.
So unless the owners of vessels and their crew start thinking differently, not much will change. And here we have a lot of mileage to cover.
How many owners of local crafts intended for carrying passengers make sure, or even are aware, of damage stability criteria and conformity of the vessel with its plans?
How many have ever thought about doing a voluntary evacuation drill?
Why do we hear so many operators now complaining that encouraging safer operations, say by having more staff for look-out or the fitting of an automatic identification system, makes the operation commercially unviable?
Are we a society that cannot afford safety? I thought we were way beyond that.
Let there be stricter regulations, taking unsafe operators/unfair competition out of the market.
This will make room for safe operators, allowing them a proper return on their investment.
We as a society need to climb up the ladder that will lead us to a safety-conscious environment, and just blaming the regulator will simply not work. We need the regulator's help, but beyond that it's really up to us.
It may take a bit longer and cost a bit more to, for example, get to Lamma, but as they say if you can't afford safety, wait till you see the cost of an accident. Unfortunately we know that now.
So please let this loss of life at least have started a new era of a safety-first thinking in our local ferry services, on the part of owners, operators and users.
P. Cremers, Tsim Sha Tsui