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.
Both Lamma ferry disaster captains broke rules, inquiry told
British maritime expert says Sea Smooth captain made decision that was ‘worse than doing nothing’ , while both skippers breached safety rules
Both captains broke safety rules in the Lamma ferry disaster, but the skipper of Sea Smooth made a wrong turn that was "even worse than doing nothing", the commission of inquiry was told yesterday.
British maritime expert Captain Nigel Pryke said: "The most significant cause of the collision was poor navigation by the coxswain of Sea Smooth. There were also contributory failings by the coxswain of Lamma IV."
His report suggested that Sea Smooth captain Lai Sai-ming allegedly made seven breaches of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, while Chow Chi-wai, skipper of the Lamma IV, made three.
A contributing factor was that Lai was alone on the bridge when the collision happened, having allowed three other crew members to take a rest without instructing them to keep a lookout, the report said. Chow also failed to read the radar.
According to the regulations, when there is a risk of a head-on collision between two power-driven vessels, both should alter course to starboard.
But Sea Smooth made a 16 degree turn to port - "a serious contravention" of the rule - and did not alert Lamma IV. "[This] is even worse than doing nothing," Pryke said.
Lamma IV made a 13 degree turn to starboard, but rocks near Shek Kok Tsui - the northwestern tip of Lamma - limited the space for it to make the turn.
Chow previously stated that he had given one short blast on his whistle, indicating he was altering course to starboard. But Pryke said he found no evidence to indicate this.
Pryke added that he did not believe "that, at this late stage, the sound signal of one short blast would have had any effect on preventing the collision".
Chow also told police the lights of vessels at anchor nearby affected his ability to observe the approach of Sea Smooth.
By the time he saw a vessel approaching at speed, it was only 500 to 600 metres ahead, two to three minutes after he left the typhoon shelter.
But Pryke said nearby lights should not have contributed to the collision.
He added: "[Chow] ought to have looked at his radar before he left the berth, and as he was creeping out of the typhoon shelter he should not have increased to full speed ... he should have been doing maybe half-speed."
Pryke also said both vessels were travelling at very high speed - Sea Smooth at 24.3 knots and Lamma IV at 11.5 knots - meaning there was a combined speed of 36 knots at the time of collision.
"Neither vessel was fully aware of the other's intentions, and the combined speed of approach allowed little time for appraisal and to take action," the report said.
Pryke also said Lamma IV did not carry a very high frequency radio and was unable to communicate with the Marine Department's vessel traffic centre. "It is just plain wrong," he said.
The hearing continues today. Survivors from the Lamma IV are due to testify next week.