Ferry accident prompts new call for safety review

Updated: 2015-10-27 07:32

By LUIS LIU in Hong Kong(China Daily)

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A ferry accident in Hong Kong on Sunday night left 124 passengers hospitalized and has prompted new calls for a maritime safety review.

As of Monday evening, five of the passengers were in critical condition and 26 others were stable.

The turbojet ferry, named Horta, was carrying 163 passengers and 11 crew members from Macao to Hong Kong when the accident happened at about 7 pm near Siu A Chau.

The vessel, operated by Shun Tak-China Travel Ship Management Ltd, was damaged in the rear wing and engine room in the accident, after it struck an "unknown floating object", the company said.

The company said the ferry was carrying six life rafts and 246 life jackets, and had gone through its annual inspection in March. It said the captain had been in his current position for 22 years and had 27 years' experience navigating the route.

The accident once again drew attention to maritime safety in the area. Hong Kong Seamen's Union President Li Chiwai urged the city's Marine Department to review its management.

The department is tasked with taking care of marine refuse services within Hong Kong waters, and Li said the authority should be held responsible, although the result of an investigation was pending.

The department stated on a previous occasion that the authority has enhanced cleaning in target areas where marine refuse is at its worst, and has deployed a cleaning team to strengthen the clean-up at foreshore areas.

To encourage public participation in keeping the sea clean, the department will work with environmental groups and relevant departments to look into the feasibility of identifying suitable sites for joint activities, said a spokesman for the department.

The ferry accident spurred the city's lawmakers to respond, especially after a ship had struck a bridge last Friday. Legislative Council member Michael Tien Puksun is expected to raise questions about maritime safety during Wednesday's scheduled chamber meeting.

Meanwhile, academics and industry players hoped to kick off discussions about mandatory seat belt rules.

Yip Tsz-leung, associate professor of the Department of Logistics and Maritime Studies, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said turbojet ferries usually sail at 35 to 40 nautical miles per hour, equal to 70-80 kilometer per hour for an automobile. Thus it is highly possible that passengers would be thrown off their seats if a sudden braking occurs.

Yip encouraged all passengers using such ferries to fasten their seat belt.

Three turbojet accidents have occurred in the past three years, leaving nearly 200 injured in total. All of the investigation reports advised ferry companies to encourage passengers to fasten their seat belts.