Captain of a Hong Kong ferry imprisoned for deadly clash

By Accidents

Hong Kong passenger ferry’s captain has been imposed the punishment of eight years imprisonment because of his participation in a deadly clash with 39 casualties in 2012. That was Hong Kong’s worst maritime accident in four decades.

The captain, whose name is Lai Sai-ming, was pronounced guilty at the city's High Court on Monday. On Saturday the jury had announced his guilt of 39 cases of manslaughter as well as for putting in danger the lives of others at sea. The captain of the other vessel, whose name was Chow Chi-wai, received nine months imprisonment. The other vessel was a property of the Hong Kong Electric Company and had been transporting company personnel and their families to observe a planned fireworks show. Unlike Lai Sai-ming, he was accused of endangering lives but not of manslaughter.

ship accidents ferry crash hong kong

Photo: Sam Tsang

During the process of the accusation judge Brian Keith characterized Lai’s deed as being below the professional level necessary for the busy waters of Hong Kong. These were not mere judgmental mistakes or spontaneous moments of mental confusion. Court documents account for Lai’s failure to maintain an appropriate careful watching and perform the necessary steps for avoiding a clash. Both the judge and the prosecutor had a common observation that Lai failed to notice the other vessel before the accident happened.

To extenuate the circumstances the judge stated the fact that both captains had undergone post traumatic stress disorder. They frequently brought to their minds the scene of the accident of that night. However, that could not be compared with the sufferings of those losing families in the accident. The result of the tragedy was 39 dead people with eight children among them. The two vessels clashed near Lamma Island, on October 1, 2012.

According to survivors, the clash overturned one of the vessels, which caused passengers to fall into the water. Rescue teams managed to save 123 people but at least 92 passengers were wounded in the tragedy. Passengers on the vessels stated that they had only moments at their disposal to escape.

The sea lanes heading to Hong Kong's main deepwater harbor are both narrow and busy. They may be characterized as one of the busiest in Asia because of the many vessels that travel in the water-for example passenger ferries and private boats, ocean liners and massive commercial freighters. Hong Kong is also a territory that possesses more than 200 outlying Islands and Lamma is one of them. The clash has appeared as Hong Kong’s most deadly tragedy since 1971. During that year the Fat Shan ferry overturn between Macau and Hong Kong because of a typhoon. That accident left 88 dead people.