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.
Lamma IV would not sink, based on calculations: Ex-ship surveyor
Ferry safe from going under even if two sections flooded, says ex-Marine Department ship surveyor who vetted vessel’s design
The Lamma IV ferry should not have sunk even if two of its below-deck compartments were flooded, a retired Marine Department ship surveyor yesterday told the commission of inquiry into its October 1 capsize.
But the commission had earlier heard three compartments were flooded due to the absence of a watertight door, which contributed to the ferry's speedy sinking after it collided with the Sea Smooth off Lamma Island on October 1, claiming 39 lives.
Former Marine Department principal surveyor of ships Wong Chi-kin, who had vetted the drawings of the Lamma IV, was asked whether the vessel would sink if both its tank room and steering gear compartment were flooded. "I have seen the calculation [after the incident]. The ship would not sink," he said.
Wong said the ferry's general arrangement and hull construction plans were submitted to the department in 1994 and 1995 respectively. He said Cheoy Lee Shipyards, which built the ferry, had also been asked to submit its damage stability and floodable length calculations, but Cheoy Lee submitted only the former.
A damage stability calculation determines a vessel's capacity to resist flooding damage, while a floodable length calculation determines the length a vessel can be flooded without causing it to sink below its safety line.
Although Cheoy Lee did not submit the floodable length calculation, Wong said officers could exercise discretion, allowing shipyards to submit just the damage stability calculation as the former was outdated.
The retiree, who did not vet all the Lamma IV drawings as he was later transferred out of his section, said he was not surprised there was no requirement for the department to approve a non-seagoing vessel's damage stability calculation as this was the way it was for Yaumatei Ferry and Star Ferry vessels built in the old days.
Regulations applied only to triple-decked vessels with capacities of more than 1,000 passengers after a ferry collision in 1978, he said.
Counsel for the commission Roger Beresford said that from 1984, new vessels designed to carry more than 100 passengers had to comply with watertight subdivision requirements, according to the Instructions for the Survey of Launches and Ferry Vessels. The requirements stated that every ship had to be subdivided by bulkheads - upright walls within the hull - which had to be watertight up to the bulkhead deck. But the Lamma IV did not have a watertight door on its bulkhead between the aft peak and the tank room, the commission had earlier heard. As of yesterday, it was not known whether such a door had ever been fitted.
Terence Fung Wai-kin, the marine police's senior superintendent of operations, who commanded the October 1 rescue operations, said that more than 200 police officers and 38 police vessels were deployed to the scene of the collision. The rescuers retrieved six bodies, none of which had life jackets on them, he said.