Lamma ferry crash

Sea Smooth captain gave no statement after Lamma ferry crash

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 December, 2012, 4:06pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 December, 2012, 9:10pm

The skipper of the Sea Smooth did not give a statement to police about his role in October’s fatal collision off Lamma Island, the commission of inquiry was told on Friday.

Testifying about his investigation into the disaster, which killed 39 people, British maritime expert Captain Nigel Pryke contrasted the difference in behaviour of the two ships’ captains after the disaster.

The captain of the Hongkong Electric ferry Lamma IV, Chow Chi-wai, 56, was a reliable witness, Pryke said. Based on his police statement and radar data, Pryke was able to plot a graph showing the route of the two vessels before the collision.

But he did not have an account from the Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry's Sea Smooth captain Lai Sai-ming.

“I think everybody knows why,” Pryke said, but did not elaborate. The commission was not told on Friday morning why there was no statement from Lai.

But it was understood that only one sailor from Sea Smooth had been willing to give police a statement. Three others, including Lai, refused to co-operate.

Pryke’s expert report said Lai made a wrong turn that was “worse than doing nothing”, just before the collision. According to the regulations, when captains are faced with an imminent head-on collision, they must turn to the right, Pryke told the inquiry on Thursday.But Sea Smooth made a 16 degree turn to the left – “a serious contravention” of the rule, Pryke said.

On Friday, the commission was told that under the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, ships between 20 metres and 70 metres in length should carry a horn that can produce a 130-decibel blast of sound.

Chow told police he gave a short blast on the Lamma IV’s horn to indicate he was making a turn moments before the collision.

But Pryke said that, after studying the ship’s horn and reading the user manual, there was no evidence to show whether Lamma IV’s horn complied with the regulations.