The Marine Department will push for the Legislative Council to enact improved safety laws as soon as possible, Director of Marine Maisie Cheng Mei-sze has said. It will propose amendments requiring every passenger to have access to a suitable life vest in times of emergency.

The 2012 Lamma ferry tragedy saw 39 people killed when a Lamma passenger ferry and a Hongkong Electric Company-owned vessel collided off Yung Shue Wan, in one of Hong Kong’s deadliest ferry accidents. Later investigation showed that there was an insufficient number of life jackets on board.

The Lamma Island ferry collision.

In February a former Marine Department ship inspector, Wong Kam-ching, was convicted of perjury when it was found that he hid the fact that there were no children’s life vests during his inspection of the vessel Lamma IV from an inquiry commission. An assistant director of marine, So Chi-ping was also found guilty this June for failing to ensure that there were enough life jackets on the vessel.

Eight children were among those who died in the Lamma tragedy.

“We will begin working on enacting laws, because the law now says that child life vests only need to account for 5% of the vessel’s passenger load. But our suggestion in the future is to change the law so that everyone on the vessel will have a suitable life jacket, which includes children. So we need to consult the industry,” said Cheng.

Director of Marine Maisie Cheng Mei-sze. Photo: GovHK.

She hoped that the proposed changes could be enacted as soon as possible. Other revisions include digitising records, reviewing the grade structure of the Marine department and inspecting the watertight doors of vessels. The department was slammed by the Ombudsman last month for its ‘lax’ approach to rectifying problems after maritime incidents.

Chantal Yuen

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.