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  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 5:40am
Lamma ferry disaster
NewsHong Kong

Lamma ferry inquiry report blasts Marine Department

The government department responsible for shipping and vessel safety needs an urgent overhaul, investigation of collision concludes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 April, 2013, 5:37pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 10:51am

"Serious systemic failings" in the Marine Department contributed to the Lamma ferry tragedy, the Commission of Inquiry into the disaster has found.

In its report, released yesterday, the commission pointed to a "litany of errors" at every stage of the design, construction and inspection of the Lamma IV, which contributed to the rapid sinking of the boat.

"What is required is systemic change, in particular a change in attitude to responsibility and transparency," the commission said of the department. "In [some] areas, what is required is action, and action now."

What is required is systemic change, in particular a change in attitude to responsibility and transparency

The commission, led by Mr Justice Michael Lunn, said it was "astonished and deeply dismayed" to learn that the department had not fully enforced a 2008 regulation stipulating that vessels should carry a number of lifejackets matching their capacity, as well as children's lifejackets equal to five per cent of capacity.

The key factors so many lives were lost were loosely attached seats on the upper deck of the Lamma IV that came off, throwing passengers towards the stern; passengers having trouble getting to and donning lifejackets; and no children's lifejackets.

The department has promised an internal investigation into whether any officer bears part of the responsibility for Hong Kong's deadliest sea tragedy in 40 years.

A total of 39 passengers died when the Hongkong Electric vessel Lamma IV, taking workers and their families to see the National Day fireworks in Victoria Harbour, collided with the ferry Sea Smooth off Lamma Island.

Sections of the report dealing with the responsibilities of the two coxswains involved in the October 1 crash - both of whom have been charged with manslaughter - was redacted to avoid influencing their trials.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said he would lead a steering committee to oversee the reform of the department. He said he would appoint a directorate-grade officer as deputy director of the department to lead the reforms.

Director of Marine Francis Liu Hon-por said the department had appointed foreign experts to review its inspection procedures and compare safety regulations with those in Singapore, Sydney and Southampton.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying pledged that the government would handle any case of maladministration or human error impartially, and said disciplinary hearings could start.

Liu did not answer if he would apologise or resign. Cheung said he "felt sorry".

Ryan Tsui Chi-shing, younger brother of Tsui Chi-wai and uncle of Tsui Hoi-ying, 10, who both died in the crash, said he appreciated that the inquiry had shed light on a lot of facts. But he had doubts whether the reforms would succeed: "The director lacks the courage to even apologise, so how can I trust him to have a conscience in future?"


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This article is now closed to comments

Since beginning of time, humans make sacrifices when something goes wrong. We have not changed and here, the public wants blood and the government will hang someone to aplease them. The fact is it was a tragic maritime accident and the cause was simply a traffic problem which rested on the shoulders of the boat captains. As maritime rules go, the captain of a ship is the law at sea. The lack of safety life jackets is his responsibility. He should have made sure before departure. The right of way is determined by the red and green lights and the offender should not have "hit and run". Those are fundamental rules to boating. There is nothing the Maritime Department could have done to prevent this apart perhaps for traffic control on that eve. This was a human error not departmental!!
Indeed perhaps some modernisation, review and update of safety procedure, traffic control etc should be carried out by Maritime Dept., but that is another story.
Perhaps we should look to see if there is any breach in law regarding "sea worthiness" of boats if any, design requirements etc before widening the blame on ship builder and owner alike.
Afterall, I doubt anyone would have deliberately wished for this tragedy.Simply hurling rotten cabbages at any related parties will destroy HK so treasured and respected law and order.
Impartial report and strong recommendations. One thing I miss, there are no recommendations on light pollution, and need for a review of lighting on vessels – especially fast moving ones - given the nature of the light pollution on and along HK waters. From the witness statements it appeared that lights from the beacon and lights at the power station impacted the crew's visibility of each vessel.
(The readiness to bent enforcement by the Marine Department in the face of stakeholder complaints about financial implications, is prevalent in other Departments. One example: Lands Department bends over for the ****, allowing villagers to add houses which cut off access for emergency vehicles to existing houses. Unfortunately, one can list more ... )
I hope the government stop boasting about we have the most efficient and effective civil servant team in the world. It is all BS. In fact, there are no civil servants in the world that I'm aware of having paid holidays oversea trips and overseas education for kids. Hk civil servants for sure being well treated but not measuring up.
Big Sheep
Whether it was intentional or not, the captioned image with CY set against a sinking ship is somewhat ironic.
In situations like this, it is almost impossible to place or point any responsibilities to any one or few individuals. Obviously, various senior management members should shoulder some of the blame, but given the way HK government handles things, I doubt any one individual(s) are going to be punished or legally charged......at the end of the day, it was an accident and the government is only doing all this "cover" work to show they care or have responsibility towards it's citizens.
Yet another govt department failing to carry out its duties - there are many instances of this, look at buildings: illegal structures, sub-divided flats, etc. or look at environmental protection. The review of marine is to check that they will now do the job they have been paid to do but neglected for years. It's time taxpayers' morale got a look in. Our civil servants are well paid and to be fair, many do a good job; however, at more senior levels there seems to be a lot of complacency and lack of accountability. I should like to see an external value for money review of every department. The only hero in our government seems to be the Director of Audit.
".....the government would handle it solemnly........the possibility of launching disciplinary action against some of the department’s officers." Good Start! Don't forget the ship owner and ship builder.
I hope every relative of those who died in this sinking will take CLP to court. This must be done for all the children who drowned that evening. These children went onto a CLP owned , operated and mananged vessel. CLP allowed the children on that vessel without any life-jackets for any of these children! CLP is guilty of murder - knowingly attempting to drown any child who goes on that boat without life jackets for innocent children. CLP cannot be allow to go UNPUNISH, one or more of those responsible for allowing ZERO children life jackets on the vessel must go to jail for murder. I am sure anyone who has lost a child that night will agree CLP is a killer.
Yeah, you're right..........didn't notice it before but he's just as much a sinking ship as the picture......hahaa.......
I don't see another serious issue addressed which leads to near misses on Hong Kong waters every day. Speed ! Hong Kong waterways are one of the busiest and still boats can go at high speeds. It's like we allow 100 km/h in the small streets of Mongkok. The accident could probably have been avoided if the vessels went at a lower speed giving the coxswain sufficient time to notice each other in time and to react appropriately avoiding each other.


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