Lamma ferry crash

Cameras in captain's cabins part of ferry safety proposals

Proposals for improving maritime safety include surveillance to monitor crews on the bridge

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 October, 2012, 3:24pm

Surveillance cameras may become mandatory on the bridges of local passenger vessels in the aftermath of a fatal National Day ferry collision off Lamma.

The idea was among 10 long-term measures listed yesterday by Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, secretary for transport and housing, to enhance maritime safety.

The proposals are up for discussion on Friday next week between marine officials and the Local Vessels Advisory Committee.

Cheung also lined up immediate and medium-term measures, such as requiring ferry operators to hold emergency drills at least once every two months.

"The Marine Department will complete its investigation in the next few months and submit its findings to the soon-to-be-established independent commission of inquiry," he told legislators. "The department is also reviewing maritime safety to make the necessary improvements."

Cheung has faced lawmakers' criticism for his lukewarm efforts in handling the October 1 disaster that claimed 39 lives.

The 10 proposals on the committee's agenda, he said, included regulating the working hours and roster patterns of captains and sailors, reviewing marine laws and requiring local vessels to install an automatic identification system that would monitor their speeds and locations in real time.

The meeting would also look at the minimum crew required on local passenger vessels, and whether to raise the sum insured in compulsory third-party insurance to protect passengers better.

A Transport and Housing Bureau spokeswoman said the committee would decide how to proceed with the proposals.

Legislators expressed discontent about Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's announcement that the investigation into the collision would take six months. They also asked why no one had been appointed to the commission of inquiry yet.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said back in 1996, the government took about 27 days to set up a commission to look into a deadly blaze in the Garley Building in Jordan.

Lam said the administration would be as efficient as before. She defended Cheung's efforts, saying he had contributed a lot in dealing with the disaster.

Seamen's Union chairman Li Chi-wai doubted the effectiveness of installing surveillance cameras and tracking systems. "There's no point watching the captain," he said. "It might be useful in an investigation when something happens, but does nothing to enhance safety."