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.
Open deck on ill-fated ferry 'overcrowded'
Too many people packed the open area of Lamma IV despite deployment of two vessels to split up passengers, HK Electric executive says
The open deck of Hongkong Electric launch Lamma IV, which sank with the loss of 39 lives, was overcrowded on the night of the October 1 disaster, a senior company executive has admitted.
Lamma IV collided with public ferry Sea Smooth off Lamma Island as it took passengers to watch National Day fireworks in Victoria Harbour.
Francis Cheng Cho-ying, general manager of the generation division, said the power firm had in place safety rules that required two vessels to be deployed for trips to fireworks displays.
Cheng was aware of the overcrowding in the open area only after the accident, he told a commission of inquiry into the disaster yesterday.
Asked if he had ordered the crew to avoid overcrowding that night, he said: "I had not done that personally, and I am not sure whether the marine officer had done it. But I believe this is the responsibility of the coxswain."
Cheng was not asked how many passengers there were. The open area of the upper deck had a licensed capacity of 14, he said.
Passenger Chiu Ping-chuen, who testified last month, had recalled the seats on the open deck were full and 20 to 30 other people were standing.
Cheng, who was testifying for the second day, said the company's safety rule was meant "to minimise risk" and had been in place since 2010, although one vessel was enough to hold all the passengers. He did not elaborate on what the risk was.
Earlier, the commission heard many people became trapped in the enclosed cabin area when they rushed in from the open deck to fetch life jackets, which were not found in the open area.
The company presented to the inquiry two insurance policies covering its employees, with premiums set at HK$600 million and HK$380 million per accident, and a maritime insurance policy on Lamma IV with an unspecified premium.
Cheng said Hongkong Electric had bought extra insurance for family and friends of its staff for the trip. He was asked to submit that as well.
Cheng said that after the accident, the power firm implemented seven immediate improvement measures for its fleet.
It circulated Marine Department notices among marine employees and crew members, put on board life jackets for children, broadcast the locations of the life raft, vests and buoys, installed emergency hammers and kept lists of passengers' names.
For the time being, it stopped running recreational excursions and ferrying children on boats. Vessels are now used only to take workers commuting to and from its Lamma Power Station.
It also terminated a contract with Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry, owner of Sea Smooth, to supply extra crew members.
This year, the company will take delivery of two new vessels, which it ordered in 2011, that will replace Lamma II and Lamma IV.
On board the new ferries, it will replace laced-up life jackets using vests with buckles, install seats more firmly and put in more hand rails.