New Year merrymakers confident of safety on board ferries
People taking boat trips to watch the New Year fireworks this evening said they were not worried about their safety despite the fatal National Day ferry disaster.
As hundreds of people waited for their boats at the Tsim Sha Tsui pier in the afternoon, marine traffic built up with at least one public ferry slowing to avoid leisure boats on a busy route.
This evening’s pyrotechnic show will be the first large display since a collision between public ferry Sea Smooth and Hongkong Electric motor launch Lamma IV killed 39 people who were on a trip to see the October 1 fireworks.
Marine Department officers were seen inspecting boats at Tsim Sha Tsui boarding points, enforcing tightened rules imposed after the disaster.
All children must wear life jackets at all times and passenger lists must be kept or those in charge of the boats face prosecution. These rules were previously non-legally-binding advice.
Student Kelvin Lo, 18, who was taking a boat trip organised by the HYFCO Travel Agency, said he was confident the ride would be safe.“I will take extra caution, but I believe the agency will tell me [the escape route and where the life jackets are] anyway,” he said.
A 70-year-old woman who was travelling with a dozen relatives, including her two young grandchildren, said she knew the children must wear life jackets. She said she was not worried about their safety as there were other family members around to take care of them.
Haily Wong, 60, said the travel agency had asked for her full name when she enrolled for the ride. She said she took a boat trip two weeks ago and felt it was safe.
The always-busy harbour became even more congested in the afternoon as tourist boats gathered to pick up their passengers.
One Tsim Sha Tsui-bound Star Ferry vessel from Wan Chai slowed abruptly in mid-voyage to give way to an empty tourist boat that showed no sign of slowing. Both continued on safely.
The department sent 110 officers and 25 vessels to check compliance with marine rules, including the new requirements. The police sent 17 vessels.
When the South China Morning Post called an agency to join a fireworks boat trip, an employee asked for the full names of participants. She said providing only the last name was unacceptable under the new rules.
Video: Real Voices, New Year's Eve, Hong Kongers share their plans for the last evening of 2012.