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Thursday, July 21, 2016, 17:57

Marine Dept announces upgraded safety system

By Li Xiange

HONG KONG - Hong Kong's Marine Department (MD) announced on Thursday that it has adopted a newly upgraded Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) system to enhance marine safety.

This came after the marine authority was slammed by the city's ombudsman for its lax practice in taking follow-up action after investigations into maritime accidents, which prompted public fears of safety risks.

In June, a Marine Department assistant director was found guilty of misconduct in public office over the fatal ferry collision near Lamma Island in 2012, which claimed 39 lives.

Director of Marine Maisie Cheng Mei-sze said the third-generation system, operated since March this year, distributes navigational information and advice to vessels through a high-frequency radio network to facilitate safe arrivals and departures.

The system is equipped with 13 radars and is able to automatically track up to 10,000 marine targets, doubled the number tracked by the previous generation, according to the department.

Cheng said the system will work round the clock throughout the year and will meet the operational needs at least till 2030.

The system's capability to detect vessels under severe weather is also enhanced, which allows the department to monitor and regulate marine traffic more effectively, according to Cheng.

A total of 17 Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) system cameras were installed at some key locations such as areas of heavy traffic to provide real-time visual vessel images, the department said.

Meanwhile, the system also records trip history of visiting vessels and generates invoices for collecting revenues with the data. These data could also be useful as the source for port developments, traffic control strategies and traffic safety enhancements, according to the department.

Cheng said the Lamma Island ferry accident in 2012 was a painful lesson for the department. Thus the department, since 2013, has implemented a series of measures to enhance marine safety, including enhancing survey of local vessels, strengthening lookout duties by crew on vessels and improving the training and examination of coxswains, according to Cheng.

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