Questions were raised during the inquiry into the Lamma ferry collision on Friday whether the Lamma IV, which sank with the loss of 39 lives, was undermanned.
The operating licence of Lamma IV, presented to the commission of inquiry, showed that the minimum crew complement for the Hongkong Electric boat was four, but there was only the coxswain, a sailor and an engineer on board when it collided with the ferry Sea Smooth off Lamma Island on October 1 last year.
Richard Zimmern, for the owner and crew of Sea Smooth, said it was an offence under the Merchant Shipping (Safety) Ordinance to under-man a ship.
But Warren Li Kin-pong, senior marine officer of Marine Department, said the law did not apply to the Lamma IV.
Roger Beresford, counsel for the commission, said there were others on board, such as Hongkong Electric recreational officers, who might or might not be regarded as crew.
The licence conditions for the Lamma II, sister ship of the Lamma IV with similar length and capacity, showed that the minimum crew required was only two, the commission heard.
Commission chairman Mr Justice Michael Lunn asked why this was the case. Frances Lok, for the Department of Justice, said it was a new question and she would explore it.
Marine Department surveyors, due to testify next week, might be able to answer the question, the commission heard.
The hearing continues.