Fine for miss­ing sailor on fate­ful ferry: HK$900

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By KAHON CHAN in Hong Kong kahon@chi­nadai­

Hongkong Elec­tric was fined HK$ 900 af­ter be­ing found guilty by a court on Mon­day for hav­ing one less sailor to work on Lamma IV than re­quired when it col­lided with an­other ferry and sank last National Day.

As many as 124 em­ploy­ees of the power com­pany and their fam­ily mem­bers, who signed up for a fire­work dis­play sail­ing, were thrown into the sea from Lamma IV off Lamma Is­land af­ter a col­li­sion with a high speed cata­ma­ran on Oct 1, 2012. Thirty-nine per­ished in the ac­ci­dent.

An in­de­pen­dent in­quiry re­port, re­leased on April 30, con­firmed that al­though Lamma IV’s op­er­at­ing li­cense and cer­tifi­cate of sur­vey re­quired a min­i­mum of four crew mem­bers, only three were present at the time of col­li­sion.

Hongkong Elec­tric, the owner of the ves­sel, was charged with not hav­ing a suf­fi­cient num­ber of qual­i­fied crew mem­bers, as pro­vided in sec­tion 11 of the Mer­chant Ship­ping (Lo­cal Ves­sels) (Gen­eral) Reg­u­la­tion.

Com­pany lawyers ar­gued that other staffers, on­board to as­sist the fes­tive ride, should be counted as part of the crew too, and that a no­tice for the re­quire­ment was found to be ab­sent.

Mag­is­trate David Chum Yau­fong, who passed the ver­dict, re­jected both ar­gu­ments and ruled Hongkong Elec­tric guilty of break­ing the man­ning rule.

The reg­u­la­tion, he pointed out, spec­i­fied crew mem­bers are “qual­i­fied and ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing out all du­ties which may rea­son­ably be re­quired” to “en­sure the safety of the ves­sel”. Other sup­port­ing staff mem­bers were en­gaged in the busi­ness of the “event” only.

Chum also ac­cepted the op­er­at­ing li­cense and cer­tifi­cate of sur­vey as two forms of no­tice is­sued by the di­rec­tor of marine, as re­quired in the reg­u­la­tion.

The max­i­mum penalty is a HK$10,000 fine and a jail term of six months. The pros­e­cu­tion told the court that pre­vi­ous con­victed own­ers were fined no more than HK$900 — a fig­ure that took some time for Chum to com­pre­hend — but went on to point out that Hongkong Elec­tric was the first de­fen­dant to plead not guilty.

The fine was fi­nally fixed at HK$900. Pass­ing sen­tence, Chum ex­plained he only con­sid­ered the com­pany’s fail­ure to obey the rule as be­ing un­der “nor­mal cir­cum­stances”, as there was no proven link be­tween the miss­ing crew mem­ber and out­come of the crash.

Hongkong Elec­tric said it re­spects the court rul­ing in a state­ment, but it may take fur­ther ac­tion af­ter de­lib­er­a­tion with its le­gal team.

While the Mon­day rul­ing may fa­vor vic­tims’ fam­i­lies in fil­ing claims with the ves­sel owner, Eric Che­ung Tat-ming, a law pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Hong Kong, said they will need to prove whether the num­ber of crew mem­bers had con­trib­uted to the ac­ci­dent.

More tri­als will fol­low. Cap­tains of both crashed ves­sels were each charged with 39 counts of man­slaugh­ter, pend­ing a hear­ing date. The owner of the high-speed cata­ma­ran was also sued for unau­tho­rized al­ter­ation of the ves­sel.

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