A CRACKDOWN on smoking on board ferries has netted more than 1,000 offenders, but Hong Kong Ferry thinks court fines are too low to stop law breakers. The firm said the maximum fine could be $5,000, but the highest imposed was $1,200 and the average just $500. 'Really, $500 is not that much today,' said general manager David Ho Chi-shing. 'And if the offender is over 60 or a teenager the courts only fine them $50.' The fines were not high enough to make people think twice, he said. 'It is costing us a lot of money to enforce. We have six inspectors working all week and if they are going to check the first ferry of the day from an outlying island then we have to pay for their accommodation overnight.' Mr Ho said Hong Kong Ferry had wanted to carry out the prosecutions itself but had been refused permission by the Government because it was not a publicly owned corporation. The number of cases has created a massive pile of paperwork and hundreds of cases have still to reach court. Nearly 600 cases are still outstanding, says Hong Kong Ferry. The paperwork is handled by the Marine Department while the prosecutions are conducted by the Legal Department. The Marine Department acknowledged it was doing more work. 'It is placing an extra burden on us,' said Trevor Roberts, who is in charge of the department's prosecutions unit. 'We have processed 900 cases with the same number of staff so we are all working a lot harder.' Hong Kong Ferry said it had also given verbal warnings to 180 passengers this summer for breaking regulations by occupying extra seats or dropping litter. From next month all ferry passengers who want to sit on the air-conditioned top deck will have to buy their tickets from the ticket office. 'We have been getting complaints from passengers who did buy tickets that they could not get a seat,' said a company spokesman. Many of the complaints came from passengers on the early morning commuter ferries from Lamma. 'We had complaints of overcrowding, but actually that was only on the deluxe deck. The rest of the vessel was fine.' Investigations by Hong Kong Ferry and the Independent Commission Against Corruption had both failed to discover ferry staff at Yung Shue Wan letting more people on board than the tickets they sold. Meetings between passengers and ferry managers had led to a number of service improvements, the spokesman said. 'One passenger said the lights on board his ferry were not bright enough and he could not read his paper. So the next time that ferry came in for maintenance we put in brighter lights. 'We also had complaints about the toilets so we are spending quite a bit of money to improve them.'