Morale among some Marine Department staff is so low after severe criticism of their role in the Lamma ferry disaster that they are like "birds startled by the mere twang of a bowstring", according to retired department official Wong Chi-kin.
Wong, who is seeking a judicial review of the findings of the inquiry that heavily criticised the department, said some "have even lost their work motivation".
The commission of inquiry into last year's collision between a ferry and a launch off Lamma Island that killed 39 people said it was "astonished and deeply dismayed" to learn that the department had not fully enforced a key regulation concerning life jackets.
Wong, who has prematurely terminated his contract with the department to launch the review, said the department had failed to defend its staff against the criticism. The department should launch a review itself if it deemed that there was something wrong in the report, he added.
Wong, a former general manager of its local vessels safety branch and a 32-year department veteran, retired in 2011, but returned as a consultant after the disaster.
Relatives of the victims, meanwhile, criticised Wong's application, saying that some department staff should be held responsible for the tragedy.
They asked why the Hongkong Electric launch Lamma IV, which collided with the ferry Sea Smooth, had been licensed even though it failed to meet safety regulations.
The relatives said the report had exposed some officers' "perfunctory and shiftless" work attitudes.
Wong said that there might have been negligence when marine officers inspected the boat, but he insisted that was not the "major reason" for the heavy loss of life.
On May 16, Secretary for the Civil Service Shirley Lam Shuet-lai was appointed the department's deputy director, heading a task force to oversee reform following the ferry disaster.
Later in the month, marine chief Francis Liu Hon-por officially apologised for the disaster.
The Transport and Housing Bureau earlier said it was conducting its own investigation into the collision.