SHIPPING & MARINE | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong

Maritime operators urged to intensify safety rules

This is following the collision tragedy in which 39 were killed.

According to a news release, Assistant Director of Marine (Shipping) PC So said the Marine Department has reminded ferry and launch-operating companies to comply with laws that require them to have adequate life-saving devices onboard their vessels, and to enhance safety management.

Mr So spoke to reporters after a meeting with representatives of ferry and launch companies this afternoon in the wake of the vessel collision tragedy near Lamma Island on October 1 in which 39 lives were lost. He said the Marine Department had immediately stepped up measures to enhance maritime safety.

“Participants at the meeting also set up a working group to study how to raise vessel safety standards, including the requirements for personnel and safety equipment,” Mr So said.

He expects the industry to support and coordinate with the statutory independent commission of inquiry, and an investigation an assistant director of the department is leading.

“This department will continue with its board checking of local vessels, in particular checking the life-saving appliances and their placement on board. If equipment is found to be ineffective during an inspection, the department will follow up and the shipping company will be required to make improvement as soon as possible,” Mr So stressed.

As of yesterday, the department had inspected 14 ferries and 84 launches, kaitos and pleasure crafts for hire, and had issued 18 warnings, mostly related to the placement of life-saving devices, he said.

The department has issued letters to companies reminding them that vessels must comply with safety-requirement laws.

There were 203 collision-related marine traffic accidents in 2011. This included many minor incidents or incidents not caused by human factors such as accidents during typhoons or vessel-berthing collisions.

Only 13 of the 203 cases related to the collisions of ferries, launches and kaitos, causing three injuries and no deaths. Between 2007 and 2010, the annual figures for similar incidents were 10 or below.

“Compared to the movements of local vessels in the port and also 400,000 vessel trips arriving and departing from Hong Kong waters in a year, the accident rate is relatively low,” he added.

The department will organise safety seminars for vessel operators and outlying island representatives, publish pamphlets, and produce announcements in the public interest to promote safety awareness.

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