Ferry companies have experienced difficulties in securing new life jackets due to rising demand after a fatal collision at sea last month, operators say.
There is a wait of at least a month before suppliers can fulfil orders placed after the National Day crash. Before the accident, deliveries could be made in half the time, they said.
"Life jackets have become a hot item after October 1," a spokesman for New World First Ferry said.
First Ferry said it had rejected a batch of life jackets ordered after the crash, because of unsatisfactory quality, and was waiting for a new lot to be delivered.
The ferry firm said it had also increased the proportion of life jackets for children from the legally required 5 per cent to 8 per cent.
Extra carts of life jackets would be placed on standby at the Central piers by next month, so more vests could easily be loaded on board if staff members observed a larger-than-usual number of children taking a particular vessel, it said.
In the National Day disaster, Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry vessel Sea Smooth and Hongkong Electric motor launch Lamma IV collided, killing 39 people. Eight children under 12 years old were among the dead.
The Marine Department later appealed to vessel operators to consider storing more life jackets on board for children.
A spokeswoman for Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry said the company ordered 10 adult and 10 child jackets recently to replace vests due to normal wear and tear. But the supplier said the company would have to wait a month for the jackets, as other operators had also made orders.
Johnny Leung Tak-hing, Star Ferry's general manager, told of a similar problem. It ordered a few hundred child jackets shortly after the accident and has only just taken delivery of them.
Ken Wong Hon-kuen of Peng Chau Kaito said his firm asked for a few baby-size vests from Britain two to three weeks ago and expected a delivery in two months.
Meanwhile, New World First Ferry said captains more than 50 years old could undergo electrocardiographic tests in their annual health checks from next year to ensure they are fit to operate a vessel. More than half of its captains are older than 50.
The comment came after New World First Bus, which is also under NWS Transport Services, said on Tuesday it was open to the idea of electrocardiograms for more drivers after a deadly accident involving one of its buses in Shau Kei Wan.