The man in charge of a marine department inquiry into issues raised by the Lamma ferry tragedy was involved in inspecting ships at the same time the Lamma IV was passing safety checks - despite missing a watertight door, which was cited as the reason it sank in about two minutes.
A report released last month found the Marine Department missed numerous opportunities in the 1990s and 2000s to spot the missing door. It also found the department was not implementing a law that came into effect in 2008, which governs the number of life jackets on board a vessel.
But the department's deputy director Ivan Tung Hon-ming - whose role in ship inspections as general manager of local vessels' safety was apparent in old Legislative Council documents - would not be a target of the investigation, the transport minister said yesterday.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said: "Of course he's not an object in the investigation when he's leading it. Otherwise, how is he going to carry out his job?"
Cheung said the investigation was about higher ranking officers investigating the responsibilities of lower ranking officers. When the investigation was complete, a report would be handed to the Transport and Housing Bureau and Civil Service Bureau for further action.
The department said the internal investigation was headed by a high-ranking official who was not involved in any "investigation items".
Neither Cheung nor the department explained how the internal investigation was related to the Marine Department task force set up under newly appointed deputy director Shirley Lam Shuet-lai.