HK Electric appeals against HK$4,500 fine over Lamma ferry disaster
The owner of a vessel involved in the National Day ferry collision that killed 39 passengers almost two years ago has appealed against a magistrate's ruling that the vessel was short of crew at the time of the accident.
Lamma IV owner HK Electric, represented by barrister Peter Duncan SC, argued that the prosecution heard evidence from only one passenger, who said the vessel had three crew members on board on October 1, 2012.
Duncan said the evidence was not enough to convict HK Electric of having "insufficient" manpower on board. "There was no evidence beyond the number of [crew members]. It was not a numbers game," he said.
Duncan argued that the Lamma IV's licence, which states that the vessel needs at least four crew members to operate, could not be taken as a notice to the owner.
The Marine Department had never issued a notice to inform the owner of how many crew members were required to embark on each journey, he added.
The magistrate was therefore wrong to take the licence as a notice and convict HK Electric for having insufficient manpower on board the Lamma IV, he said.
Madam Justice Anthea Pang Ko-kam asked if Duncan meant that the court should also consider the experience and quality of the crew members and company staff assisting those on board, to which the lawyer said yes.
But senior assistant director of public prosecutions Edmond Lee Chun-man argued that the number of crew members on board was the crux of the issue.
"Crew members ensure the safety of the vessel," he said. "Only when there are enough crew members, is the safety of the vessel then secured."
Pang will pass judgment on the case today.
In April last year, the Marine Department charged Lamma IV owner HK Electric with not having sufficient qualified crew members on board the vessel at the time of the accident.
The power firm was convicted and initially fined HK$900, which was later increased to HK$4,500 to more adequately reflect the seriousness of the offence.
On October 1, 2012, HK Electric took its workers and their families on the Lamma IV to view a fireworks display in Victoria Harbour. The vessel collided with the Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry-operated Sea Smooth. The accident claimed the lives of 31 adults and eight children.