Safety on board a vessel belonging to the ferry company involved in last year's deadly sea collision came under fire again yesterday, as angry passengers stopped the boat from leaving the dock because it was clogged with cargo.
The Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry Company vessel was about to depart on the 4.30pm sailing from Central to Lamma Island when passengers complained that cargo was blocking the exits.
Police were called and some of the cargo was removed before the ferry sailed.
It was on the same route as that sailed by the Sea Smooth, which collided with the Hongkong Electric boat Lamma IV with the loss of 39 lives on October 1 last year.
Passenger Brian Kern, who was on the Sea Smooth at the time of the collision, said later he still had an upset stomach about yesterday's incident - "and I'm not someone who gets upset easily". "I'm concerned that months after [the fatal crash] the HKKF is still not taking the safety of passengers seriously."
Exits on both sides of the ferry's lower deck, as well as the stairway leading to the upper deck, were blocked by four large bookcases and other smaller boxes.
Kern said the police were called when the owner of the cargo refused to remove any of it and the ferry crew could do nothing even after two managers arrived.
Even the police said it was outside their jurisdiction, but the owner eventually agreed to remove two of the bookcases and the ferry sailed.
Another complaining passenger, secondary school teacher Peter Sims, said the passengers included numerous children on their way home from school.
"The crew has the legal responsibility for our safety under Hong Kong law," Sims said. "But they were happy to put us and the children in danger."
He said the incident showed that the company had not changed its policies or its management structure after the crash.
A spokeswoman said the employee selling cargo tickets was new on the job, and miscalculated the amount that the ferry could hold. She said that if there was cargo blocking the exits, the ferry would definitely not depart.
The police confirmed that officers were dispatched to deal with the case, but that it was resolved and did not need further follow-up.