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.
Sea Smooth coxswain: It was safe to not use the radar
Sea Smooth crew chief reveals he rarely checked his radar in fine weather, and had set its range to detect only nearby objects
The coxswain of the Sea Smooth ferry insisted it was a safe to sail without looking at the radar during fine weather, the commission of inquiry into the National Day disaster heard yesterday.
Lai Sai-ming testified that he was not in the habit of undertaking long-range scanning at the start of voyages. He said that his employer had not stressed to him the value of using a radar to aid navigation.
"If the weather was not good, then I would use [the radar]. If the weather was good, then I would not," he said.
The Sea Smooth's radar was set at a range of 1.2 kilometres when the collision occurred. Visibility was 9.6 kilometres on the night the Sea Smooth collided with the Lamma IV, causing 39 deaths.
But Lai insisted the range was not too short, despite the vessel accelerating to sail at 21 to 23 knots after leaving the 15 knots speed restriction zone in Victoria Harbour.
The Lamma IV's radar range was set at 1.6 kilometres, the commission had earlier heard.
Lai was in court yesterday after consulting his new legal counsel, funded by his employer Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry.
Charles Sussex SC, for the ferry operator, had earlier withdrawn from representing the crew of the ferry due to a potential conflict of interest.
Lai said his new lawyer had advised that he could testify without legal representation.
The three other crew members also decided to appear at the inquiry without further legal advice.
Lai told the inquiry that after the catamaran left Central pier, he switched off the CCTV screen to keep the wheelhouse dim and facilitate lookout at night.
According to his statement, Lai had already changed both course and speed two or three times to avoid colliding with the other boats and yachts sailing to the harbour to view the National Day fireworks.
The hearing yesterday did not go into details of Lai's statement on the collision process.
Wong Yung-shing, a Sea Smooth sailor, said he fell to the ground after the collision, which caused a door at the bow to burst open.
He saw an object, which he believed to be a ship, gliding past the Sea Smooth when he stood up.
Wong also corrected his previous statement to the police, which said Lai had told him there had been a vessel collision and that the coxswain had ordered passengers to don life jackets.
He told the commission yesterday that he had not contacted Lai after the collision and that it was engineer Lo Pui-kay who made the order.
Wong was arrested for manslaughter, while Lai and sailor Wong Tai-yau were arrested for endangering the safety of others at sea, the commission heard. It was not known what Lo was arrested for.
Cheung Fook-chor, a former employee of Cheoy Lee Shipyards, which built Lamma IV in 1995 and 1996, admitted he had made some omissions, which led to a wrong calculation in the damage stability - the capacity of a vessel to resist flooding - of the ferry.
The hearing continues today.