Hong Kong to Improve Marine Safety After Ferry Crash Probe

Hong Kong will rectify marine safety rules after an investigation into the city’s deadliest ferry collision in four decades found “serious problems” with the control of local passenger vessels, according to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

The partial report found failures by the government to enforce safety rules and that poor maintenance and the absence of child life jackets on Hongkong Electric Co.’s sunken ferry led to the loss of life among passengers during the accident on Oct. 1 last year.

The crash that took 39 lives happened as the ferry carried employees of Hongkong Electric, controlled by the city’s richest man Li Ka-shing, and their family members to Victoria Harbour to watch a fireworks display celebrating China’s national day.

“We must learn the lesson and spare no efforts in making fundamental improvements and reforms to ensure marine safety and restore public confidence,” Leung said at a briefing today. “Should there be any maladministration or human error found, the government will deal with it in an impartial and serious manner.”

The captains of the two vessels were each charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, and the report’s findings related to their responsibilities were kept out pending the criminal proceeding’s conclusion.

Hong Kong will cancel the Oct. 1 fireworks display this year, Leung said.

13 Recommendations

The report made 13 recommendations including tighter monitoring of ferry inspections and a requirement to make safety equipment more accessible.

Passengers were trapped by collapsing seats when the ferry sank vertically, according to the report. It also found that there were no life jackets for children on the vessel.

The report said it is “difficult to comprehend” how the city’s Marine Department would be satisfied with the safety regulation on the seating, and “astonished and deeply dismayed” by the enforcement of rules on life jackets.

In the inquiry, lawyers for the commission said the vessels failed to keep a proper lookout, according to the transcript of the hearings.

The collision is the city’s deadliest marine incident since the 1971 capsizing of Macau-to-Hong Kong ferry “Fat Shan” during a typhoon killed 88 people, according to Hong Kong Observatory records.

More than 1,000 firefighters and police officers worked through the night of the accident to rescue the injured and recover dead bodies. Leung ordered a judge-led commission to find the causes of the collision and to recommend improvements on marine safety a day after the accident.

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