Lamma ferry crash

Ferry coxswain guidelines confusing, Lamma inquiry hears

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 February, 2013, 1:44pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 February, 2013, 2:01pm

Guidelines telling ferry coxswains how to react, after a collision with another vessel, were described as confusing at the commission of inquiry on Thursday morning.

In one section, the guidelines issued by Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry tell the helmsman to “steer away from the [ship’s original] course”, giving no further explanation.

But in another section the guidelines say they may have to stay at the site and help the other vessel, said commission counsel Paul Shieh Wing-tai SC, who called the situation “confusing”.

In the October 1 tragedy last year, the ferry company’s vessel Sea Smooth left the scene soon after it collided with Lamma IV. The latter was heading towards Victoria Harbour for the National Day fireworks show. Thirty-nine people died in the tragedy.

Nelson Ng Siu-yuen, the company’s general manager, said coxwains should be able to judge for themselves whether to remain at the scene of a collision, depending on the individual situation.

The inquiry also heard that the ferry company did not require coxswains to get their eyesight and health checked regularly.

Sea Smooth captain Lai Sai-ming had his eyesight tested in 1997 when he got his Marine Department licence, which remains valid until 2023.

The lack of a regular health check requirement was widespread in the industry, and the department did not require such tests to be done regularly, Ng said.

The hearing continues on Thursday afternoon