Ease entry requirements, Marine Department is urged

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 February, 2014, 3:17am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 February, 2014, 4:51am

The entry requirements for the two professional grades in the Marine Department should be relaxed to ease a manpower shortage, a government committee overseeing reforms to the department has suggested.

It said the department could hire young candidates with less post-qualification working experience and relax the entry requirement on use of Chinese.

The Steering Committee on Systemic Reform of the Marine Department, headed by transport minister Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, was set up in May after the department was heavily criticised by the commission of inquiry into the 2012 Lamma ferry tragedy.

The observations were made in a document submitted to the Legislative Council yesterday, as the department's internal investigation of the tragedy was wrapping up its work, with a report to be submitted to Cheung by the end of next month.

The committee said the department should work towards adjusting the entry requirements for marine officers and ship surveyors.

The South China Morning Post reported in October that the department's staff numbers had shrunk by more than 10 per cent in the past decade. By the end of September, five of 55 marine officer posts and six of 50 surveyor posts were vacant.

The committee said the department could recruit "young candidates who have just attained the necessary academic or professional qualifications". In-house training for junior officers was being explored, it said.

The department was also considering relaxing the entry requirement on use of Chinese for professional positions.

"The maritime industry is highly globalised and English is the common language used among sea-going professionals," the committee said.

It suggested the government provide a full subsidy to the trade to install an automatic identification system, which tracks nearby ships, and a half subsidy to install radar on local vessels.

Other proposals included requiring vessels to provide child lifejackets for every child on board and to carry a number of infant lifejackets not less than 2.5 per cent of a ship's capacity.

The government would provide incentives to people to join the trade using a new maritime training fund.

A collision between Lamma ferry Sea Smooth and Hong Kong Electric launch Lamma IV on October 1, 2012, killed 39 people.