Lamma ferry crash

Hong Kong High Court judge calls for skippers of Lamma ferry disaster to have certificates cancelled

The latest inquiry into the 2012 collision, which killed 39 people, has concluded that the two men in charge of the vessels were incompetent and negligent

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 September, 2016, 12:16am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 September, 2016, 12:17am

Two skippers involved in the 2012 Lamma ferry collision, which claimed 39 lives, should be disqualified from taking the helm, the latest official inquiry into the incident has found.

In a report released on Wednesday, retired High Court judge John Saunders, who led the investigation into the fitness and conduct of Chow Chi-wai and Lai Sai-ming, concluded that both Local Certificates of Competency (LCC) had to be cancelled.

“[The collision] is so clearly a case of incompetence and negligence,” Saunders said.

Ruling out lesser approaches such as a suspension of their certificates and censure, the retired judge asserted that cancellation was the appropriate course of action.

On the evening of October 1, 2012, the Sea Smooth local ferry crashed into the Lamma IV vessel in the waters west of the Shek Kok Tsui light beacon, on the north-west coast of Lamma Island.

At the time of the collision, Lai was the coxswain of the Sea Smooth and Chow was in charge of the Lamma IV.

A commission of inquiry was conducted into the tragedy. Its report, released in April 2013, found both Lai and Chow were unfit to discharge their duties and recommended a fresh independent inquiry be held.

Saunders concluded that both Lai and Chow were “seriously negligent” in the discharge of their duties.

“[Lai] is unfit to discharge his duties by reason of incompetence,” the retired judge added.

Both skippers have already faced criminal sanctions. Lai was sentenced to concurrent terms of eight years imprisonment for 39 counts of manslaughter and a concurrent term of 18 months imprisonment for one count of endangering the safety of others at sea.

Chow was also charged with manslaughter, but was acquitted of manslaughter charges. He was convicted on one charge of endangering the safety of others at sea and has completed his term of imprisonment.