A High Court judge on Monday adjourned for 30 days the application by a retired Marine Department surveyor seeking a judicial review that he hopes will overturn the findings of a commission that investigated last year’s Lamma Island ferry disaster.
In the Commission of Inquiry’s report on the disaster the now retired ship surveyor Wong Chi-kin, a former general manager of the Marine Department’s local vessels safety branch, is criticised for neglect of duty.
The inquiry into the ferry diaster, which involved a collision between the ferry Sea Smooth and the Hongkong Electric launch Lamma IV on October 1 last year and left 39 passengers dead, was chaired by Mr Justice Michael Lunn.
The former surveyor told the Court of First Instance on Monday the report contained erroneous information, including false accusations against individual Marine Department employees. In particular, he contested evidence given by an overseas expert witness.
He also asked the court to waive his legal costs, saying he could not proceed with his challenge unless they were covered by the court.
“You are challenging findings made by the [commission of] inquiry against you," Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung in court on Monday. "There is a big question of whether you are acting in your own interest or the public interest.”
There was no reason for the court to grant an order waiving Wong’s costs if his challenge was solely in his own interest, the judge said.
There is no precedent for such an order to be granted for judicial review application.
He also said there was no precedent in Hong Kong for such an order to be granted for a judicial review application, and even if he were to set a precedent in this case, it would have to be one of great public interest.
“I am not acting for my own interest,” Wong said. “I am trying to put right what was wrongly presented and said [in the report].”
The judge gave Wong 30 days to file additional evidence to support his application to overturn the report’s findings.
The court heard that Wong would contact the Marine Department and the Civil Service Bureau to check whether he could use material for his challenge that he had obtained when he was still a civil servant.
In the inquiry 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 had failed to identify conflicts in the design drawings of Lamma IV submitted by the builder.
A watertight door was missing in some drawings, and it was not installed when it was built.
Wong ought not to have approved the drawings without requiring their revision, the report said.