One hurt and hundreds left stranded in high-speed ferry crash off Hong Kong’s Lantau island

Jetfoil ferry returning from Macau crashed into a fishing boat late on Saturday night with 289 passengers and 10 crew members on board

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 August, 2016, 2:36am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 August, 2016, 10:23am

A woman was injured on a high-speed ferry returning from Macau after it collided with a fishing boat in mainland waters under poor weather late on Saturday night, leaving nearly 300 passengers stranded.

Operated by TurboJET, the Hong Kong-bound MK2003 set off from Macau at 11.15pm on Saturday night with 289 passengers and 10 crew members on board.

Parent company Shun Tak-China Travel Ship Management said the jetfoil collided with a 15-metre fishing boat near Ngau Tau island off Lantau Island, about 35 minutes into the journey.

Since the location was situated in mainland waters, Guangdong maritime authorities had demanded the ferry remain stationary pending an inspection, the company said in a statement.

The vessel was stranded there for two hours to allow inspections by crew members as well as marine officials from both Guangdong and the Hong Kong Marine Department who were sent to decide whether the ferry was still seaworthy.

The front of the fishing boat was damaged, but everyone on board both vessels was said to be safe. Dents and a big gash measuring about eight metres wide could be seen on the jetfoil’s starboard hull as it finally arrived back at the Macau ferry pier in Sheung Wan at around 2.20am.

A 20-year-old woman passenger on the jetfoil was taken to hospital with leg injuries.

“It was frightening, really. We saw something scrape by the window ... [The impact] was pretty intense, the doors of all the overhead compartments flew open,” one passenger said.

Footage filmed by passengers, which has since circulated online, showed passengers wearing orange life jackets and waiting for rescue in their seats. Most were calm, but some complained about a lack of announcements following the accident.

A spokesman for the company later said bad weather was probably one factor in the crash. The vessel will be towed to the operator’s shipyard on Stonecutters Island for further investigation.

Shun Tak said both Guangdong and Hong Kong maritime authorities were immediately notified after the accident.

It said officials from Guangdong Maritime Safety Administration first arrived at the scene at 12:50am before allowing the ships to leave at 1:04am. But Hong Kong marine police arrived five minutes later and boarded the vessel for inspections, before letting the vessel go at 1:37am.

The skipper had explained to passengers six times that the jetfoil was safe and was not at risk of sinking, it said, but the company did apologise to a few disgruntled passengers who complained that the skipper failed to explain what had happened immediately after the collision.

It went on to explain the vessel involved passed an inspection in May this year, and claimed that the skipper had a good record in 15 years of service, and had worked for 6.5 hours into his shift after returning from a day off.

The Marine Department said it was following up on the case.

Heavy rain lashed Hong Kong on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. The Hong Kong Observatory issued the amber rainstorm warning at 12.05am, before upgrading it to red 25 minutes later. More than 60mm of rain was recorded on Lantau at the time of the accident.

Additional reporting by Ernest Kao