New York Times - Ships and Shipping

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Hong Kong ship operators urged to add more lifejackets for children

Marine Department is working with vessel operators to review safety measures

Simpson Cheung and Stuart Lau

The Marine Department appealed yesterday for ship operators to look at increasing the number of lifejackets for children following last week's fatal ferry crash off Lamma in which 39 people died, including eight under 12 years old.
But Johnny Leung Tak-hing, Star Ferry's general manager, said although the company would review the situation, generally there was no need to add extra lifejackets on short routes across the shallow water in Victoria Harbour.
The department said it had issued 18 warnings after conducting 98 random checks on ships since the crash. Most warnings concerned the improper placement of lifejackets, and one Aberdeen sampan operator is facing prosecution over the issue.
Department assistant director So Ping-chi said some lifejackets had been placed in unmarked boxes or in store rooms with other miscellaneous items.
"All ships complied with the legal requirement of having 5 per cent of its lifejackets suitable for children … But if many children take a certain route to go to school … we would require the operator to add more [lifejackets] immediately," he said.
Speaking after meeting ships' operators yesterday, So said the department would educate people living on outlying islands who were frequent commuters on how to put on lifejackets. He said there were 203 collisions in Hong Kong waters last year - 13 of them involved passenger-carrying vessels, which was three more than the average in recent years.
It also emerged in a Legco paper the 11 male and 28 female victims, aged three to 83, came from 32 families. Seven families lost two members and four children had lost one of their parents.
So's department is setting up a working group with operators to discuss all possible ways to step up safety measures on passenger-carrying vessels.
That may include the addition of a deputy captain, improved training and making radar and other navigation systems mandatory.
Asked if there is any need to review any marine law, So said the department would resort to administrative measures first. It would consider legislation only if operators were not co-operative.
New World First Ferry said it was willing to co-operate with government proposals.
Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung said
a forensic investigation had started on the navigation records retrieved from the Marine Department's computer system.
Source: South China Morning Post, Hong Kong.

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