Lamma ferry crash

Lamma ferry disaster: Hong Kong lacks marine training, says union chief

Maritime leader calls for a mandatory lookout on passenger vessels, as inquiry draws to a close

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 March, 2013, 5:03am

A trade union chief yesterday criticised a lack of training in the local marine industry and long working hours in some ferry companies.

The criticism by Hong Kong and Kowloon Trades Union Council chairman Lee Kwok-keung came at the end of 48 days of evidence to the commission of inquiry into the Lamma sea tragedy. Lawyers' final submissions will be heard on Monday.

Lee, the last of 110 witnesses, said a new class had not been held since 2007 for deckhands or for those wanting to advance to coxswain.

"The companies operating local vessels have repeatedly alerted the Marine Department in the last few years about the lack of provision of training courses."

Lee said this was one reason for a manpower problem in the local industry that was short of 80 seafarers while the government injected HK$28 million into training for ocean-going crew.

The union leader also called for a mandatory lookout on passenger vessels.

"It seems that there is a culture that the masters and coxswains of local vessels are not accustomed to maintain a proper lookout," he said.

Lee also compared the working hours of some of the ferry operators.

He said First Ferry crew worked 24-hour shifts, while coxswains of the Star Ferry worked eight hours a day, with a one-hour meal break.

Shun Tak-China Travel crew worked 11 hours a day, with a 45-minute break.

Coxswain of the Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry vessel Sea Smooth, Lai Sai-ming, said previously he worked 24-hour shifts with no designated meal break.

Commission counsel Roger Beresford said the Marine Department was also "considering some prosecutions" against the crew of the two vessels.

"The ones they've mentioned are fairly technical in nature. They're not manslaughter or endangering life at sea. But no final decision has been made."

Director of Public Prosecutions Kevin Zervos SC said earlier that arrested crew members could face serious charges including manslaughter.