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Both Lamma ferry disaster captains broke rules, inquiry told

 British maritime expert says Sea Smooth captain made decision that was ‘worse than doing nothing’ , while both skippers breached safety rules

Friday, 14 December, 2012, 12:00am

Simpson Cheung simpson.cheung@scmp.com

Both captains broke safety rules in the Lamma ferry disaster, but the skipper of Sea Smooth made a wrong turn that was “even worse than doing nothing”, the commission of inquiry was told yesterday.

British maritime expert Captain Nigel Pryke said: “The most significant cause of the collision was poor navigation by the coxswain of Sea Smooth. There were also contributory failings by the coxswain of Lamma IV.”

His report suggested that Sea Smooth captain Lai Sai-ming allegedly made seven breaches of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, while Chow Chi-wai, skipper of the Lamma IV, made three.

A contributing factor was that Lai was alone on the bridge when the collision happened, having allowed three other crew members to take a rest without instructing them to keep a lookout, the report said. Chow also failed to read the radar.

According to the regulations, when there is a risk of a head-on collision between two power-driven vessels, both should alter course to starboard.

But Sea Smooth made a 16 degree turn to port – “a serious contravention” of the rule – and did not alert Lamma IV. “[This] is even worse than doing nothing,” Pryke said.

Lamma IV made a 13 degree turn to starboard, but rocks near Shek Kok Tsui – the northwestern tip of Lamma – limited the space for it to make the turn.

Chow previously stated that he had given one short blast on his whistle, indicating he was altering course to starboard. But Pryke said he found no evidence to indicate this.

Pryke added that he did not believe “that, at this late stage, the sound signal of one short blast would have had any effect on preventing the collision”.

Chow also told police the lights of vessels at anchor nearby affected his ability to observe the approach of Sea Smooth.

By the time he saw a vessel approaching at speed, it was only 500 to 600 metres ahead, two to three minutes after he left the typhoon shelter.

But Pryke said nearby lights should not have contributed to the collision.

He added: “[Chow] ought to have looked at his radar before he left the berth, and as he was creeping out of the typhoon shelter he should not have increased to full speed … he should have been doing maybe half-speed.”

Pryke also said both vessels were travelling at very high speed – Sea Smooth at 24.3 knots and Lamma IV at 11.5 knots – meaning there was a combined speed of 36 knots at the time of collision.

“Neither vessel was fully aware of the other’s intentions, and the combined speed of approach allowed little time for appraisal and to take action,” the report said.

Pryke also said Lamma IV did not carry a very high frequency radio and was unable to communicate with the Marine Department’s vessel traffic centre. “It is just plain wrong,” he said.

The hearing continues today. Survivors from the Lamma IV are due to testify next week.

Reproduced from South China Morning Post. Original here

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Lamma ferry disaster captains ‘had 3 minutes to avoid crash’

Commission of inquiry into disaster that left 39 dead is told ferry Sea Smooth and Lamma IV should have been clearly visible to each other

Thursday, 13 December, 2012, 12:00am

The captains of the two vessels that collided off Lamma Island killing 39 people should have been able to see each other’s ships three minutes before they crashed, the commission of inquiry into the tragedy was told yesterday.

Counsel for the commission Paul Shieh Wing-tai SC said that according to the Observatory, visibility was clear and the wind was light at the time of the crash – 8.20pm on October 1 – and the weather and tide were not affecting navigation.

Shieh was making his opening remarks at the start of the main hearing by the commission. A preliminary hearing was held last week.

By the time the Hongkong Electric boat Lamma IV had cleared its berth and was under way, it was within two nautical miles of the ferry Sea Smooth.

“By 8.17pm, they should have been within sight of one another by radar and visually,” he said.

An animation from radar data, played at the hearing, showed that Sea Smooth – with four crew and at least 62 passengers – was travelling at 24 nautical miles an hour about 20 seconds before the collision.

Lamma IV, with three crew and 124 passengers, was travelling at 11.5 nautical miles an hour.

Radar diagrams presented to the commission showed that the routes taken by the two vessels during the period of the crash overlapped three times.

Further analysis of the radar data is expected by other witnesses, including a British expert.

But the accuracy of the data was questioned by James McGowan SC, representing the owner and crew of Lamma IV.

The commission heard that the Sea Smooth disengaged from the Lamma IV after the crash, leaving part of its hull inside the stricken vessel, which sank in less than five minutes.

The first emergency call was made by a passenger on Lamma IV one minute after the crash.

Two minutes later, the captain of Sea Smooth informed the Marine Department’s Vessel Traffic Centre in Sheung Wan by radio.

“My [vessel] collided with a Hongkong Electric vessel [near] the Lamma Patch,” Captain Lai Sai-ming said in an audio clip played yesterday.

The centre’s log book, presented at the hearing, showed the crash was noted at 8.25pm and that a rescue was under way.

The department’s assistant director in port control, marine police and the fire services had been informed.

Six minutes after the crash, at 8.26pm, the Sea Smooth captain reconnected with the control centre. He said: “Water is flooding into the vessel’s port, its starboard side.

“Water is flooding into the vessel. I am now taking passengers to [Yung Shue Wan pier]”.

The hearing continues today.

Reproduced from South China Morning Post. Original here

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Recap.

The Lamma IV, a 24 metre boat owned by Hongkong Electric carrying about 124 staff and their family members, with a crew of 3, travelling to watch Fireworks in Victoria Harbour, collided with the ferry Sea Smooth, in waters off Lamma Island at about 8.23pm on October 1, 2012. More than 100 passengers on the boat fell into the water, and at least 39 are confirmed dead. This is the deadliest boat accident in Hong Kong in 40 years. The Fireworks were scheduled to start at 9.00pm, and attracted around 150 spectator vessels. It was reported the Sea Smooth was travelling around 24 knots and the Lamma IV around 14 knots. Visibility was good. It appears the Sea Smooth Port Bow made contact with the Lamma IV Hull in the area of the Stern Port Quarter, where the Engine room compartment is located. It was reported that the impact caused a hole of 9 sq. metres. The Lamma IV engine compartment became inundated with in rushing sea water, causing the stern to rapidly sink to a depth of 15 metres trapping people inside. Eyewitness reports state the Lamma IV was barely visible as a dark shape after the crash. It’s reported the Sea Smooth stayed for around 5 minutes before leaving the scene. Eyewitness reports state the Lamma IV, sank with it’s Bow sticking out of the water within 5 minutes of the collision.

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The following drawing was published in the SCMP. It illustrates the differences between the two vessels that collided, and shows how the Lamma IV,  was very vulnerable to a large breach of the Hull in the Engine Room section, or next aft section, which they have called the Sterntube compartment.

The drawing of the Lamma IV shows Five Bulkheads built into the vessel, each of which would either be a sealed bulkhead with no penetration, or have a watertight door to gain access from one section to the next, such as was likely the case between the Engine Room and the Sterntube section.

In some of the news reports, there has been speculation that watertight doors may have been left open allowing more than one compartment to flood.  The investigation will answer that question. If the Sterntube section did as seems likely flood, then there may be additional reasons for that to happen, including additional cracks or openings in the Hull that allowed seawater into that section.

Some survivors have been quoted in the news papers to say that they felt they only had a minute or two after the collision before the Lamma IV aft passenger section was inundated with sea water, and the stern started to slip below the water.

Based on assumptions of the dimensions of the Lamma IV engine room together with the anticipated water flow with a large opening below the water line, I believe it would only have taken around 1 to 2 minutes for the engine room compartment to be filled with more than 80 to 100 tons of sea water.

It is staggering to realise that an opening of less than one square foot, a metre below the sea surface could allow sea water to rush into the vessel at a rate of around 1,000 gallons per minute. Bear in mind that reports mention the opening in the Lamma IV Hull caused by the impact was around 9 square metres.

If there was one watertight door open between the engine room and the sterntubes compartment then at most it would have taken less than six minutes for the compartment to fill with sea water.

These are ‘broad brush’ estimates based on published tables of ‘Estimated Water Flow Rates’, taking into account the size of opening and fall distance. They are also conservative estimates.

With both compartments filled with well over 100 Tons of seawater, and the buoyancy of the aft section removed, the vessel’s stern would rapidly sink, and the vessel upturn into the Bow Up condition as seen in so many photographs.

Anyone trapped in the passenger compartment in the aft section would now be under several metres of water, in a vessel that is vertical, with loose items freefalling down on top of them. A very perilous situation.

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To give some support and context to the above assumptions, there follows below an eyewitness report of the aftermath of the collision as recounted by Chris Head, who was seated on the upper open deck of the Sea Smooth. This was published in the SCMP.

Quote

Teacher and Lamma resident Chris Head, 48, who was sitting outside at the back of the upper deck of the Sea Smooth, relived the moment of impact and the harrowing minutes afterwards when he thought his 12-year-old son was aboard the stricken vessel the ferry had hit.

“Visibility was fine, it wasn’t crystal clear, there was that haze, but you could see quite clearly. The water was calm,” he said.

“I just heard this enormous whack. I thought we had hit the biggest wave of all time. The force of the collision toppled me out of my seat, I ended up on my hands and knees on the deck. My first reaction was that of shock, just simply ‘wow! what happened?’ I didn’t know if we had hit a rock, a reef, a lighthouse or what.

“Then, because I was at the back of the ferry, I could see the other boat and realised what could have happened. All I could see was this very dark, silhouetted vessel limping away, it was leaning over to one side. It didn’t seem to me like a ferry, it was so dark, there were no lights on it. I thought it was a fishing boat.

“I couldn’t hear any shouts for help or screams, nothing, the boat was just so dark.

“Initially we were trying to put on our life jackets, so we were more concerned with that. But after a few minutes, probably about five, I could see the end of the boat – I couldn’t tell whether it was the bow or the stern – sticking vertically out of the water and I thought ‘Shit! This is real’.

Unquote

Lastly take a look at the following photographs taken of the Lamma IV as she was lifted onto a Barge to remove her for further investigation.

The massive tear in the Hull caused by the impact can clearly be seen in the Blue Hull. It is also possible the massive impact on the Hull caused other cracks to open further aft.

These are quite chilling photographs as after looking at these it is not hard to imagine just how quickly the stern section would have filled with sea water and sank.

There is an eyewitness report from ‘gac’ on the Lamma Forumn, who saw the Lamma IV as she was lifted onto the barge. He describes the tear in the Lamma IV to be like in an L shape, with a vertical tear from the top of the Hull down to the chine (foot of the side) linking with a horizontal tear along the chine, as illustrated below. In addition there appears for be an opening at the rear bulkhead of the engine room, likely caused by the force of the impact on the Hull shell plate at the time of impact.

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So in summary the Lamma IV sank so quickly due to the massive breach of her hull. Her fate was sealed the instant the two vessels collided. As soon as the Hull had been ripped open to the extent it was, then rapid flooding and sinking was the only outcome.

Given the force of the impact, any vessel of the same specification and construction as the Lamma IV would surely have had the same outcome.

The tragedy is that the collision took place in the first place, and the Investigation will seek to provide answers to how could that happen, as well as to “Why the Lamma IV sank so quickly”.

The last two Photos are courtesy of contributors of the My Lamma Forumn.

Lastly I’d like to pay my respects to all those affected by this tragic accident with such a sickening loss of life.

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Recap :

A boat owned by Hongkong Electric carrying more than 100 staff workers and their family members collided with a ferry in waters off Lamma Island at about 8.23pm on October 1, 2012. More than 100 passengers on the boat fell into the water,  and at least 39 are confirmed dead. This is the deadliest boat accident in Hong Kong in 40 years. The Fireworks were scheduled to start at 9.00pm.

The decision to go ahead with the National Day fireworks display 30 minutes after the ferry collision has caused much debate online.

Some argued the government was trying not to spoil the happy mood of the holiday, while others thought the administration was trying to cover up the accident.

Some said the display had to take place because more than 300,000 people had gathered around the harbour, waiting for the show, and cancelling it could have created a problem.

The Marine Department said there were 150 vessels in the harbour waiting for the fireworks.

The debate also extended to whether the city should stage fireworks displays at future National Days, which they said should become a day to mourn the victims of the tragedy.

Other online forum commentators asked why the nightly Symphony of Lights show was not cancelled immediately and why a day of mourning was not called immediately after the collision.

A spokesman for the Home Affairs Bureau, which co-ordinates the fireworks display, defended the decision to go ahead. He said the crash happened less than an hour before the fireworks show started at 9pm. It took time to receive details about the crash.

He said that if the show was to have been cancelled, the department would have needed to make an announcement to the city, especially with hundreds of thousands of people gathering on the harbour. A cancellation might have made it difficult to disperse the crowds safely.

Faced with the question on Tuesday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said it should be referred to the “show’s organiser”.

The fireworks sponsor was the Association of the Hong Kong Members of Guangdong’s Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Committees

Arctile from SCMP here

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This from the SCMP.

Failure to comply with guidelines could affect compensation.

Olga Wong, Ada Lee  and  Thomas Chan

082c52924daeb0b3611488e135d020b0.jpg

Fireman and police inspect the Lamma IV yesterday. Hongkong Electric and the vessel failed to keep a passenger list and did not ensure children wore life vests. Photo: David Wong

Hongkong Electric and the sunken vessel it owned breached maritime safety guidelines by failing to keep a passenger list and not ensuring that children were wearing life jackets.

While the breaches may not result in any legal action, it may affect passengers’ chances of claiming insurance.

The Marine Department’s guidelines, formulated for vessels viewing the fireworks display, required coxswains and owners of all vessels to take four measures before the start of the voyage: inform all people on board of the location of the lifesaving equipment and the proper way to don a life jacket; require all children to wear a life jacket at all times; keep a passenger list containing their names; and adhere to the carrying capacity specified in the operating licence.

They won’t compensate for something that could have been under control

“If people had followed the guidelines, [Monday’s] incident would not have been that disastrous,” marine director Francis Liu Hon-por conceded in a radio programme yesterday.

The collision of a public ferry and a motor launch, which was taking Hongkong Electric staff, family and friends to watch the fireworks on National Day, left 38 dead, including five children.

Many of the children wore no life jackets and, as of yesterday, Hongkong Electric had failed to release a full list of passengers.

Two days after the accident, a Hongkong Electric spokeswoman said the company only had a registration list, not a list of those finally on board. She said yesterday that the company had information on 127 passengers involved in the accident, three more than its first announcement of 124 passengers. But the government figure shows a total of 131 people dead or injured.

Liu said the guidelines had been in place for years and were not legally binding.

Paul Law Siu-hung, the president of the International Professional Insurance Consulting Association, said failing to comply with the guidelines could affect the chances, and the amount, of compensation, that a vessel owner could claim from the insurance firm. “Insurance companies will investigate if the owner and captain have done their best to ensure the safety of passengers and to minimise the possible damage,” he said. “They won’t compensate for something that could have been under control.”

He said the responsibility of compensation would shift to Hongkong Electric if the accident was not insured. “The amount would be astronomical, given the numerous deaths and the long recovery process of survivors, who suffered physically and mentally,” Law said.

But Hermine Kay, marketing manager for boat rental company Hong Kong Catamaran Club, said it would be “impossible” for boat companies to obtain a full list of passengers from their customers if it was not required by law, as some people had privacy concerns.

Kay said the company, which rented out two boats for fireworks displays on Monday night, would have informed passengers where the life jackets were stored, but it would have been difficult to force people to wear them.

Li Chi-wai, chairman of the Hong Kong Seamen’s Union, said the guidelines would “mean nothing” if there were no consequences.

Liu said the government could consider turning the guidelines into law if the investigation report recommended it.

Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry said it had bought insurance with US$500 million coverage for one incident, more than the stipulated requirement of HK$5 million.

The police said the bodies of the 38 dead at the Kwai Chung Public Mortuary had been identified by their families yesterday, but the force declined to estimate how many were still missing.

Ryan Tsui, whose brother died, said the police refused to give out any information about the deceased, forcing his family to rush to each hospital to confirm the death. His niece, 10, who celebrated her birthday on board, is in critical condition.

LIST OF THE DEAD (PRELIMINARY)

Chan Wing-kei, 56, Hui Ka-wai, 24,

Wong Wai-ngor, 56, Tsui Chi-wai, 42,

Yan Tsz-ki, 8, Cheng Yin-lan, 40, (mother of Yan Tsz-ki), Cheng Sin-kam, 64,

Chan Hau-luen, 55, Nicholas Chi-ho Belshaw, 7,

Wendy Ie Hwie, 44, (mother of Nicholas Belshaw),

Wong Pui-lan, 63, Thomas Koo Man-cheung, 24,

Pieta Leung Ka-kit, 23

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News extracts from Newsday articles

Outrage over human errors in Hong Kong boat crash

Lamma IV

When two boats filled with people collided on Hong Kong’s busy waterways, the impact knocked a hole in one vessel’s engine room and the water poured in too fast to stop the boat from sinking. Passengers struggled to find life vests and dozens drowned in the turbulent waters.

Rather than rush to help, however, the crew of the other vessel, a ferry, seemed paralyzed, according to witnesses. After pausing briefly near the doomed ship filled with holiday revelers, the ferry continued on to its berth. Shock over Monday’s crash, which left 39 dead, gave way to outrage Wednesday over what experts concluded was human error. Investigators have not publicly offered a theory of how the collision occurred but have arrested seven crew members, including both captains. The ferry company denied accusations that the boat left immediately after the crash, but did not say whether its crew did anything to help the other vessel as it rapidly sank.

The collision, Hong Kong’s deadliest maritime accident since 1971, has hit at the heart of the semiautonomous territory’s identity. Fleets of ferry boats form the backbone of the transport network, and much of Hong Kong’s economy relies on its reputation as a well-managed shipping hub. “We cannot help but be shocked and angry,” the English-language South China Morning Post said in an editorial. It said “pinpointing fault and ensuring that there is no repeat” would be a matter of “safety, reputation and financial well-being.”

All 39 people killed had been on the Lamma IV, owned by utility company Hong Kong Electric, which was taking about 120 of its workers and their families to watch fireworks in celebration of China’s National Day and mid-autumn festival. Survivors from both boats said that after the collision knocked people from their seats, there was chaos as people rushed to find life jackets. About 100 people on both vessels, but mostly from the Lamma IV, were taken to hospitals for injuries.

Capt. Tony Yeung Pui-keung, manager of the Maritime Services Training Institute in Hong Kong, said the large number of fatalities was due to Lamma IV’s rapid partial sinking, which occurred in minutes after the engine room was breached and flooded. “I think it was all of the sudden and I think no (one) can make a response in two minutes,” Yeung said. “So I think it’s difficult. Except for Superman, no people can escape so easily.”

Ferry passenger Chris Head said he was thrown off his feet on the open upper rear deck. He said the collision felt like “walking into a lamppost.” “Then someone else on the boat pointed out a dark shape moving away from us and said, ‘I think we just hit a boat,'” said Head, a teacher who has lived on nearby Lamma island for 18 years. The other boat was already listing, and aside from two tiny lights it “just was not lit at all. We couldn’t see anyone on it,” Head said. He said he couldn’t be sure that the lights had been off before the crash. After Head and the other passengers put on their life jackets, he saw that the other boat had started to “go into a sort of Titanic pose vertically.” Head said the ferry itself was listing slightly and taking on water. He said the captain kept the ferry in the area for five to 10 minutes before leaving. But he added, “I’m not saying that he was making any effort to rescue. I don’t know about that.”

Capt. Yeung, who is not involved in the investigation, said standard maritime protocol requires ships to stay with other damaged boats and help if they can, even if only to call for help. He said the Sea Smooth’s captain might not have been aware of this duty or may have panicked, worried about his own passengers. “I will leave it to the judge to decide whether the captain is guilty or not, but I personally cannot accept (that he left the scene),” he said.

Good Visibility on Night of Accident

Yeung said it was too early to know what caused the accident but that weather didn’t seem to be a factor on the relatively clear and calm night. He said the lights of the skyline and other ships might have obscured the navigation lights on one or both of the ships that crashed, but that the biggest factors appeared to be “careless mistakes” by both crews.

Three crew members from the Lamma IV and four from the Sea Smooth were arrested; all have been released on bail except the hospitalized Sea Smooth captain. Police Commissioner Tsang Wai-hung said both crews are suspected of having not “exercised the care required of them by law,” but he did not elaborate. Yeung said he suspects the ferry captain may not have been paying enough attention. “If people run on the same route every day, several times a day, they become overconfident. They become very slack,” he said.

At the same time, he said the Lamma IV’s captain might have been moving too fast to secure a good position for the fireworks show. Hong Kong Electric spokeswoman Elaine Wong declined to release any information about the Lamma IV’s captain. A woman who escaped the Lamma IV with her husband and their two children told the South China Morning Post they barely had time to get into life vests before water rushed into the boat.

Renee, whose surname was not given, said her husband, Fong Hang-keung, found an exit and pulled her, their 7-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter out into the sea. The four were rescued in about 10 minutes. Ng, the ferry official, said the Sea Smooth had no problems when it passed a government-required inspection last month. Echoing promises from the power company Tuesday, he said the ferry company “will absolutely chase the reasons behind the incident.”

Ng bristled at the claim, made by the power company that the ferry left the scene immediately.”I think, at this stage, to say that we left without a backward glance, there is a little problem with that,” Ng said. But he added that because he still hadn’t spoken with the ferry captain, he did not know exactly how the crew responded.

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Article from UK Telgraph

Seven-year-old British boy among Hong Kong ferry victims

A seven-year-old British boy and his mother were among 38 killed in Hong Kong’s
worst maritime disaster in decades, it emerged on Wednesday.

Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday evening released a list of 11 of the people who had been killed in Monday night’s ferry disaster, naming the British victim as Nicholas Chi-ho Belshaw. His mother, Wendy Ie Hwie, 44, also died, according to the list.

Earlier, the Foreign Office confirmed one British national was among those killed when two passenger boats collided on Monday night.

Nicholas and his mother were among 124 people travelling on the Lamma IV boat when it crashed into a passenger ferry called Sea Smooth.

While the damaged Sea Smooth managed to find its way back to port, survivors said the Lamma IV sank within minutes of impact, plunging many of its passengers into the water.

“I could see it going upright and sinking, just like the Titanic,” Chris Head, a teacher who was on the Sea Smooth, told the South China Morning Post.

By the time rescue workers arrived at the scene, it was already too late for some.

The Ship sank in minutes. Some passengers said they had been trapped inside the ship and had to break windows underwater in order to escape.

Fireman Wong Tsz-kiu told the Hong Kong-based newspaper how he battled to rescue an eight-year-old girl.

“I pulled her out of the water unconscious and performed CPR on her hoping to resuscitate her. Then I handed her over to the paramedics in the main boat, and they told me she was gone. Only then did I cry.”

By Wednesday morning, the official death toll had reached 38, including five children. Seven crew members – including the captains of both vessels – have been placed under arrest for “endangering the safety of others at sea”.

The tragedy – described as Hong Kong’s worst maritime disaster since a ferry travelling between Hong Kong and Macau sunk in 1971 killing 88 people – has ignited a mix of grief and anger among Hong Kongers.

Questions have been raised over how such an accident could happen given the modern-technology used by such vessels and why the Sea Smooth did not appear to have stayed on the scene to help victims from the Lamma IV.

Port officials say an investigation could take up to six months and authorities have yet to present the cause of the accident. The director of the company that owns the Sea Smooth ferry, has rejected accusations of a “hit and run”.

On Wednesday night around 1,200 mourners, among them survivors, gathered at Hong Kong’s Catholic cathedral for a remembrance service led by archbishop John Tong.

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Some extracts of articles in the press.

Answers may take months

Extensive damage to the Port Side Aft Quarter

The investigation into the deadly ferry collision will try to find out why the pleasure boat Lamma IV sank so fast, the Director of Marine Francis Liu Hon-por said yesterday. The vessel was towed to Nga Kau Wan on the northern bay of Lamma island. It sustained a 3.04-meter gaping hole on its side and was leaking oil. An oil-proof net was put around its perimeter to contain the spill. Liu said the probe may take six months, after which safety guidelines for commercial pleasure craft could be altered. “Another focus of the investigation is whether any of the crew had breached regulations,” he said, adding that they will check if there were sufficient safety equipment onboard. The department had issued guidelines that children should always wear life jackets on commercial pleasure boats but he admitted this is not part of the law. “There is also an instruction to require commercial pleasure boats to have a crew member and passenger list, but it’s not required by law either,” he said. The Sea Smooth, owned by the Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry, remains docked at the Yung Shue Wan pier. Prakash Metaparti, a master mariner and assistant professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Department of Logistics and Maritime Studies, said he believes either one or both vessels were going at an “unsafe speed,” causing Lamma IV to sink within a few minutes. He said it is fairly simple to estimate the speed of the vessels and the path they took a few minutes before the collision through the Marine Department’s radar recordings of the entire harbor traffic. He believes Lamma IV sank because it was hit on the side toward the back part of the ship.

Appears to be Large Gash in Hull just astern of Tyre fender

“That’s where you have the engine room, which is usually the biggest compartment in the ship,” he said. “If that got punctured, water would rush in and quickly fill up a big part of the ship. “That would make it tilt back. Usually, if the damage was not significant, the water would seep in somewhat slowly and the ship would sink rather slowly.” In another development, Island District councillors urged the government to tighten its regulations to improve sea traffic.

The members observed a minute of silence before starting the special meeting on the collision. Meanwhile, a consulate spokeswoman disclosed yesterday that a British national was among the 38 people killed in the accident. British Prime Minister David Cameron has sent his condolences to the boat tragedy victims. Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister Hugo Swire said: “I was deeply saddened by news of the tragic ferry accident in Hong Kong. “We enjoy close historical and cultural ties with Hong Kong, which means that the tragedy will be felt keenly in Britain.”

Source : The Standard

CRYING FERRY BOSS DEFENDS CAPTAIN

The ferry company at the center of the Lamma disaster rejected accusations that the ship captain failed to stop and give assistance in wake of the collision. In standing by his captain, Nelson Ng Siu-yuen of Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry Holdings broke down while disclosing the fact that a relative of his wife lost two children in Hong Kong’s worst maritime incident in 40 years. Thirty-eight people died while an as yet unknown number are believed missing in Monday’s collision between the passenger ferry Sea Smooth and the pleasure boat Lamma IV. “We feel deep regret about this sea tragedy,” Ng said.

“We hope all the deceased can rest in peace. “I have promised not to say anything, but now I feel I cannot but tell you that I too have relatives, two children, who passed away.” Ng said he has reported his personal tragedy to the board of directors. But he was staunch in his defense of the ferry captain, taking issue with reports that suggested the Sea Smooth, carrying more than 90 commuters at the time, had irresponsibly sailed away after the collision. “We stopped at the scene and did not leave immediately. It is unfair to blame the company’s ferry, but what actually happened is up to the investigators to determine,” he said. A master mariner and assistant professor of logistics and maritime studies at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Prakash Metaparti, however, said that while it is the usual practice to stay at an accident scene and offer help, “it is not a rigid rule.” He added: “There are several exceptions. One such exception is when a ship master feels that remaining at the scene will endanger his ship, cargo or passengers, so he may choose to leave.

Extensive Damage to Port Bow section

” Metaparti believes that the captain may have “justifiably felt” that his ferry was in danger of sinking or that some of his own passengers would need urgent medical assistance. For his part, Ng said the captain, a 27-year veteran, remains in a state of shock and is receiving counseling at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The captain has yet to give a full account of what happened. “He does not want to talk yet,” Ng said. “He may be blaming himself.” The captain, whose ribs were injured in the crash, had to be assisted when walking, Ng said, stressing the entire crew had not been working overtime that day. “The Sea Smooth had sailed six to seven round trips that day before the accident, but the captain and his crew were working hours that were just like on normal days,” said Ng. Both ship captains and five of their crew members were arrested and must report back to police in the middle of this month.

Source : The Standard

Listing to Port

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Not the beach view anyone wants

These are just my own personal ramblings about an incident that has caused a sickening loss of life. My heart goes out to the families and friends of those who perished, as well as the survivors who will doubtless relive those terrifying events in their minds eye for many years to come.

From every marine accident there is an investigation and from every investigation there are conclusions. Such investigations are not tasked with prosecuting the guilty, they are simply to find the facts of what happened and why it happened, so that where required, systems or procedures or equipment can be changed or modified to try to ensure the same thing will not happen again.

The relevant police authorities will make their own enquiries to deal with the facts of suspected liability and guilt. Thereafter the relevant legal jurisdiction will act accordingly on the matter.

But more than that, after an incident like this with such a tragic loss of life, surely in many maritime regions and territories, the relevant persons are asking: Could this happen here ?

That is a question to which I believe there is no “Yes or No” answer, but there are a lot of things to consider.

There is a simple and chilling fact; any accident at sea or elsewhere is analogous to a chemical reaction, if you allow the dangerous mix of ingredients into the same place at the same time then there may well be a violent reaction.

If you can keep them separate, then hopefully nothing happens. In many accidents at sea the ‘ingredients’ are speed, complacency, poor lookout, visibility and navigation, systems failure, and the unexpected.

As to the question; Could it happen in Singapore ? well it could, but in my opinion, it’s very unlikley, and here’s why.

Firstly the relevant Goverment Agency, the Maritime & Port Authority, MPA, has been very active for many years in “managing” the operation of ferry traffic in Singapore. One of the major features of this is that all ferries are required to follow demarcated routes into and out of, and through Singapore waters, and the routes are well defined and well known by near all users. In addition these ferries are required to adhere to set day & night speed limits for the routes in the direct approaches. Consequently if you are at sea in those corridoors at night, then you expect to meet ferry traffic, and at 12 knots you have a bit of time to spot them, and navigate out of their way.

Just One of the Designated Ferry Routes

It’s worthwhile to note that these routes and speed regulations have been in place for around ten years. Also be assured that they have added time and distance onto each and every journey. I can remember some journeys being around 15 minutes quicker. It was also strange to watch as a ferry gets further away from the destination to follow the route.

Secondly the Police Coastguard has a large presence on the water with a large number or active patrol craft throughout Singapore waters. Whilst they have a multitude of roles, they would seem to keep some form of watch of ferry and private and passenger traffic. This is part deterant, and part Big Brother to make sure that maritime rules and laws are followed.

At a location near you ?

Thirdly, major events such as fireworks, or yacht races or waterborne events, etc. likely dont draw the same volume of on-water spectators in Singapore as perhaps as in cities like Hong Kong, Auckland or wherever. Also Fireworks in Singapore are within sheltered or enclosed waterways, and can be easily, and best viewed from onshore. Just look at any National Day, F1, or New Years event video to see what I mean. Obviously Fireworks are at night, which immediately brings navigational and lookout issues.

Victoria Harbour Fireworks

Fourthly and importantly, the MPA many years ago implemented a scheme of ensuring each and every craft on the water has some form of AIS or HARTS, (Harbour Craft Transponder System) on board. This in effect enables the MPA Port Operations to monitor the location and speed and heading of every craft on the water, if in fact they have the time, the interest and manpower to do that. (Note they’ve just upgraded their system to handle 10,000 vessel tracks at any one time ! Click on photo to follow link to read the release.)

WOW just upgraded, they can handle 10,000 vessel tracks at any given time ! Click to follow link !

In addition there is any number of MPA Pilot boats, and MPA launches out and on the water. There is also the system of Cruising permit application process for Non Singapore registered pleasure craft vessels, which requires approval for their route and schedule for any given cruise.

Perhaps lastly there is the issue of geography and layout. Singapore has a defined and ‘regular’ coastline, and a small number of islands with ferry access, with defined routes of access to and from. Reclamation has played a big role and Islands have been dredged, linked, joined, connected and amalgamated for the use by Indutstry, Military and Leisure/Property Development. In some cases bridges and roads have been built for access, negating the use of ferries.

Other than that, and significantly, the regional ferry traffic has to be very much less than in Hong Kong.

A lot of sea room there. Easier to miss than have a collision

Indicative only. Believe accident site was close to NW tip of Lamma Island.

The investigation is underway in Hong Kong, and the families of the perished will be waiting for those conclusions, to answer the question of “How could this happen”, but the likelyhood is that is that this will all come down to those ingredients mentioned above.

If there is however one immediate lesson to be learned from this whole affair so far, it is the conclusion from the photos below.

It’s a bit unfair to make this comparision as I dont know the standards that each vessel was built to, but the immediate reaction is that one sank, and one made it to the dock, presumed to be under it’s own power.

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The conclusion ? Travel by Catamaran !

Two Hulls = Two Chances !

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Image Source : BBC, SCMP, ST, online news outlets, etc.

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