Lace-up life jackets, such as those available aboard the Lamma IV vessel involved in the National Day ferry disaster, did not comply with standards set by the International Maritime Organisation, according to a naval expert.
The naval expert and architect Dr Neville Armstrong made the statement on Thursday while testifying to the commission of inquiry into the Lamma ferry disaster that killed 39 passengers on October 1 last year.
Armstrong, who was appointed by the commission, said the IMO standards suggested that life vests should have a "quick and positive means of closure that do not require the tying of knots”.
The commission had previously heard testimony from Lamma IV survivors who complained about having difficulties donning life jackets after their ferry collided with another ferry, the Sea Smooth, off Lamma Island. Some said the laces were so long they got entangled in the railings during evacuation.
According to IMO standards for life jackets, at least 75 per cent of persons who are completely unfamiliar with a life jacket should be able to correctly don it within a period of one minute without assistance, guidance or prior demonstration.
The standards also point out that after demonstration, all persons should know how to wear the life jacket, and it should allow wearers to jump into the water from a height of 4.5 metres without injuring themselves.
But Armstrong said the IMO standards only applied to sea-going vessels and some of its rules could be too tough for Hong Kong.
On another point, the commission heard from Professor Ho Siu-lau of Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s department of electrical engineering, who said that after inspecting the Lamma IV he found that the stern light burnt out most likely because of a heavy electical surge during the accident.