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.
Lack of watertight door sank Lamma IV, inquiry told
Naval architect also tells hearing there wasn’t enough time for crew to evacuate passengers
The Lamma IV would still be afloat with two gashes created by the Sea Smooth if there was a watertight door between its compartments, the commission of inquiry into the October 1 ferry collision heard.
Naval architect Dr Anthony Armstrong also came to the conclusion, based on computer projections, that it took eight seconds for the vessel to tilt from seven degrees to 70 degrees about two minutes after the collision.
"[There is] certainly not enough time in which the crew would have been able to organise evacuation from the ship," the commission-appointed expert witness said.
The bow of Sea Smooth had created two gashes on Lamma IV's hull during the collision - one in its engine room and the other in the tank room.
Armstrong found that the stern of Lamma IV would almost be submerged, but that the vessel would remain afloat if just those two compartments were flooded.
The second gash was made by the large kinetic energy generated by the high speed of the Sea Smooth, Armstrong said.
But a large opening on the bulkhead between the tank room and its adjacent steering gear compartment led to the flooding of the third compartment, which contributed to the sinking of the vessel, Armstrong's calculations showed.
According to the original drawings of the ship when it was built, a watertight door was meant to be fitted at the opening. But shipbuilder Cheoy Lee had earlier argued that it was just a mistake made by an outsourced designer.
Further calculations by Armstrong showed that even when the ship was newly built in 1996, Lamma IV would have sunk if the watertight door was not installed, regardless of the installation of a 8.25-tonne ballast at the stern two years later.
The Australian expert also said whether or not Sea Smooth had reversed after the collision would make no difference to the flow of water into the hull of Lamma IV because the bow of the Sea Smooth had been broken and left inside Lamma IV.
Some Lamma IV passengers who testified earlier said they felt the engine restarting and thought the other vessel was backing out.
But Armstrong said if that was the case, it must have happened within 10 seconds as Lamma IV was sinking quickly. He said the engine sound could have come from the flooding of Lamma IV's engine. He believed the collision bulkhead at the bow of the Sea Smooth stopped it from penetrating further into Lamma IV.
The hearing continues today.
Meanwhile, the seven crew members of the two vessels were expected to have their bail extended for another month when they report to police today, pending a prosecution decision by the Department of Justice, a police officer said.
See video simulation prepared by naval architect Dr Neville Anthony Armstrong illustrating the impact and angle of the collision of the two ferries on National Day.