The Sea Smooth was in good enough structural shape after its collision with the Lamma IV that it could have stayed at the scene and provided help, the commission of inquiry into the October 1 sea tragedy was told yesterday.
"I don't believe there was any structural reason that [ the Sea Smooth] could not have stayed to assist," said Australian naval architect Dr Neville Armstrong when asked by lawyer Clive Grossman SC, representing Lamma IV owner Hongkong Electric and its crew.
Sea Smooth left soon after the collision. Passengers earlier told the inquiry that the vessel was taking on water and the crew faced conflicting calls to stay behind to rescue people and to sail back to the pier.
Armstrong also said that the Marine Department officials should have been aware, when they inspected the Lamma IV, whether it had enough life jackets and lifebuoys.
They should also have checked the vessel against the original design drawings, he said. The drawings for the Lamma IV showed a watertight door that the ferry did not have. The inquiry heard earlier that the absence of the door contributed to the vessel's swift sinking.
A Hongkong Electric general manager testified earlier that the ferry had 65 lifebuoys - one for every two people - and 92 vests. Armstrong said on Wednesday that this was below British and Australian standards, which required enough for all passengers.
He also said yesterday that the seats on the Lamma IV could not be considered adequately secured, although the impact of the collision was not the reason they became detached.
He said that if the seats, secured only to plastic foam, were used over time, they could work loose on a normal voyage.