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Monday, February 16, 2015, 14:33

Captain gets 8 years for ferry crash

By Agencies
Captain gets 8 years for ferry crash

In this Oct2, 2012 file photo, rescuers check on a half submerged boat after it collided near Lamma Island, off the southwestern coast of Hong Kong. (AP Photo / Kin Cheung)

HONG KONG - The Captain of Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry's "Sea Smooth", Lai Sai-ming, was jailed on Monday for eight years for manslaughter and endangering the safety of others at sea in the 2012 Lamma ferry tragedy which killed a total of 39 people.

The captain of "Lamma IV," the other boat involved in the disaster, Chow Chi-wai, was sentenced to nine months, for endangering the safety of others at sea.

Passing the sentence, the judge said, the defendant, Lai Sai-ming's action had fallen way below the professionalism required for a coxswain of a fast ferry in busy waters.

Barrister Audrey Campbell-Moffat SC, on behalf of Lai Sai-ming, said the 56-year-old had "a good character" and had spent his entire working life in local waters.

She added that there might be other reasons as the evidence in court had shown, that contributed to the 39 deaths -

which was the most serious maritime accident in Hong Kong in the last 40 years.

The barrister also submitted that Chow was only guilty of a short period of inactiveness which was inconsequential to the collision.

Two vessels, "Sea Smooth" and Hong Kong Electric's "Lamma IV", collided off Yung Shu Wan Pier of Hong Kong's Lamma Island on the evening of Oct 1, 2012 when the city's residents were celebrating the National Day of China.

The collision killed 39 passengers from 35 families in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is home to one of the world's busiest shipping lanes and, while serious accidents are rare, the waters have become increasingly crowded with leisure boats and vessels that ferry passengers to the nearby city of Macao.

Maritime experts have said that Sea Smooth captain had taken a port tack around one minute before the collision, which was in clear contravention of international maritime regulations. Related regulations stipulate that two vessels, which might collide, should take a starboard tack to avoid collision.

The captain of the Lamma IV, which was carrying more than 100 people to see the National Day fireworks in the Victoria Harbor and sank shortly after the collision, either did not take positive action in time to avoid the collision.

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