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.
Radar licence should be compulsory for seafarers: Lawmaker Gary Fan
More courses on radar operation should be offered to improve marine safety, a retired instructor at the Maritime Services Training Institute urged yesterday. He also said the number of courses had dropped notably in recent years.
Chow Wah-hoi, who retired last year after 11 years at the institute, said dozens of seafarers were on a course waiting list.
He was speaking against the background of hearings by the commission of inquiry into the Lamma ferry disaster, which heard that the captain of the Lamma IV, Chow Chi-wai, had failed to read the radar before colliding with ferry Sea Smooth.
Chow Wah-hoi said the institute offered students the seven-day Basic Radar Operator Course eight times a year in 2006, but only three to four times now.
The former instructor said the lack of radar knowledge and licence could leave coxswains and sailors helpless before a collision.
"If they didn't have a licence, they could only stop, slow down or go backwards when they found a ship was about to crash into them. They could not turn according to the international marine rules," he said. "And that could be dangerous, because unlike cars, ships can drift."
He said many seafarers were interested in the course, because they could find a job or be promoted more easily with the certificate. The institute offered two to three courses, with 10 students in each of them, in 2009, and had increased the number to three to four after the ferry disaster on October 1. "But still, dozens are on the waiting list."
Chow suggested the institute, operating under the Vocational Training Centre, should offer courses according to the number of applicants, so no one would wait long before enrolling.
The VTC said the launching of a class depends on industry demand and the centre's human resources. It had two instructors who were eligible to teach the radar course and 15 people on the waiting list at the moment, a spokeswoman said.
The VTC noted it had decreased the number of classes in 2007, but had since added more classes to meet demand. The institute held 20 radar classes from 2007 to last year, training 200 people, the spokeswoman said.
Lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai , of the NeoDemocrats said he hoped the government would make it compulsory for seafarers to have a radar licence.