Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Finally Answers to the Ferry Tragedy

The Lamma IV sank in minutes to the shock of passengers and rescuers
We are please to finally get some answers to the tragic Lamma ferry accident that happened exactly six months ago.

Thirty-nine people died when a Hongkong Electric ship called Lamma IV collided with the ferry Sea Smooth off Lamma Island when the former vessel was taking passengers out to see the National Day Fireworks in Victoria Harbour.

The Commission of Inquiry found "serious systemic failings" on behalf of the Marine Department that contributed to the tragedy, where a series of errors were made at every stage of the design, construction and inspection of the Lamma IV. This explains why the vessel sank so quickly after the collision.

Led by Justice Michael Lunn, the commission was "astonished and deeply dismayed" to discover the department had not fully enforced at 2008 regulation that stipulated vessels should have the number of lifejackets matching the capacity, and have children's lifejackets available too.

Another factor was that seats on the upper deck of the Lamma IV were not very secure and came off easily in the accident, throwing those passengers towards the stern. Also people had difficulty getting to and putting on lifejackets, and there were no children's lifejackets on board.

In addition, the two coxwains of the two vessels have both been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter and they will go to trial.
Damage sustained by the Lama ferry Sea Smooth

As for the commission's inquiry, Director of Marine Francis Liu Hon-por did not indicate if he would resign or apologize. Perhaps he is waiting to see if Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying ropes him into a disciplinary hearing, but really he should do the honorable thing and resign.

And Leung would be politically inept if he didn't hold a hearing on Liu, so either way someone has to go.

In the meantime, this year's National Day fireworks display has been cancelled out of respect for the victims, and there is now talk about how there are too many pyrotechnic shows in Hong Kong already.

Perhaps we should be fiscally prudent and batten down the hatches, but more importantly the Hong Kong government must ensure all crews working in the city's harbour are qualified and carefully inspect all vessels.

Our lives are dependent on them.

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