Lamma ferry crash

Challenge to 'unfair' Lamma ferry disaster findings

Retired ship surveyor seeks a judicial review into damning inquiry report on ferry crash, saying he wants justice for his department

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 July, 2013, 4:53am

A retired Marine Department ship surveyor is seeking a judicial review that he hopes will overturn a damning report which found serious failings on the part of the department over the Lamma ferry disaster that killed 39 people last year.

Wong Chi-kin, a former general manager of the department's local vessels safety branch, says the 186-page report was "very unfair" to the branch where he worked for more than 30 years.

The tragedy could have been avoided if the two vessels did not collide … or if the two captains were more alert

His application for the review, filed in the High Court, said the report contained wrong information including false accusations against individual Marine Department employees.

He said he hoped the judicial review could bring justice to him and his colleagues.

Wong gave evidence to the inquiry, chaired by Mr Justice Michael Lunn, into the collision between the ferry Sea Smooth and Hongkong Electric launch Lamma IV on October 1 last year.

Captains Chow Chi-wai, of Lamma IV, and Lai Sai-ming, of Sea Smooth, await trial on charges of manslaughter.

In its report, released in April with some sections removed for legal reasons, the commission of inquiry 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.

The commission 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 life jackets matching their capacity, as well as children's life jackets equal to 5 per cent of capacity.

The report said that Wong failed to identify conflicts in the design drawings of Lamma IV submitted by the builder.

A watertight door was missing in some drawings and the door was not installed when it was built.

Wong ought not to have approved the drawings without requiring their revision, it said.

The marine veteran said his department had asked the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency to compile a report as the evidence given in the inquiry was unfavourable to them.

He said that the commission did not accept the report - which said that Lamma IV had met the British regulations - because it was submitted after the evidence stage.

Wong asked why the report - which he described as "strong evidence" - could not be accepted by the commission.

"Hong Kong's marine policies have long been following the British ones," he said. "How could [the vessel] violate the local rules while complying with the British ones?"

He also challenged the commission experts' claim that had the missing watertight door been in place, the boat would have sunk much more slowly.

He said this was based on "too many assumptions", adding: "The tragedy could have been avoided if the two vessels did not collide … or if the two captains were more alert."

A spokeswoman for the department said Wong had retired and had applied for the judicial review in his own capacity, a right it respected.

The Transport and Housing Bureau said it was conducting its own investigation into the collision.