Senior marine staff would not be questioned as part of the internal investigation into the Lamma ferry tragedy unless new information came to light, the city's transport chief insisted yesterday. His remarks came in the face of criticism about the limitations of the Marine Department investigating itself.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung gave his support to the ongoing internal investigation led by deputy director of marine Ivan Tung Hon-ming, saying higher ranking officers would look only into the conduct of lower ranking officers. This meant both Director of Marine Francis Liu Hon-por and Tung would not be investigated.
Cheung, speaking after the first meeting of the Steering Committee on Systemic Reform of the Marine Department, also addressed claims by victims' relatives that Liu failed to apologise over the National Day tragedy that claimed 39 lives.
"The director has already issued a statement which has expressed his regret over the whole incident. I think he has already apologised," he said.
"If there is new information that leads us to believe any other staff, or higher ranking staff, were involved, we would extend the scope of investigation."
Families had also called for an independent investigation into the Marine Department. Its "systematic failings" were identified in the commission of inquiry report into the collision.
Ryan Tsui Chi-shing, who lost his elder brother Tsui Chi-wai and niece Tsui Hoi-ying, said: "Why didn't Liu directly say sorry? Expressing regret is neither here nor there."
Cheung expected the new committee to have suggestions on improving the department's procedures in four to six months.
He hoped the department's internal investigation would be finished in a few months.
Cheung said the steering committee had set out the scope of its work, including conducting a comprehensive review of passenger safety and regulations.
It would also look at strengthening the department's internal governance and addressing its "brain-drain" problem.