Hong Kong Court Jails Lamma Disaster Captains

Hong Kong Court Jails Lamma Disaster Captains

The Hong Kong Court’s Justice Brian Keith sentenced Lai Sai-ming, the captain of the Sea Smooth ferry, to eight years in prison on the charges of manslaughter and endangering the safety of others at sea in the 2012 collision with Lamma IV ferry that killed 39 people, the South China Morning Post reports.

Chow Chi-wai, the captain of the Lamma IV, was sentenced to nine months in prison after the jury found him guilty of endangering the safety of others at sea. He was cleared of the manslaughter charges.

The prosecution team initially charged the two seamen with gross negligence, saying that they failed to keep a proper lookout, or take effective collision avoidance maneuvers.

Both defense and prosecution teams said that they have yet to decide whether to appeal the rulings.

World Maritime News Staff

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One thought on “Hong Kong Court Jails Lamma Disaster Captains”

  1. Dear Sir/Madam:

    The sentencing of the two coxswains involved in the Lamma
    IV/Sea Smooth collision by an Expat Judge simply confirms local Hong Kong
    fixation upon blaming the miserable captains of the vessels involved instead of
    getting to the real cause of the loss of life, which is clearly the utter
    negligence and lack of diligence in the HK Marine Department, on several

    To have a proper criminal conviction, you need to have a
    criminal mind at the time of the incident. This is “Mens Rea” in the law,
    which can include a level of negligence which approaches an actual intent to
    cause danger to others. In this case, neither of the two captains set out
    that night to kill people or endanger them..they were simply going about their
    business on Hong Kong Harbour as they had done countless times before.
    There was no intent to cause harm and no intent to endanger life at sea,
    particularly on the part of the captain of Lamma IV. The sentencing
    of Coxswain Chow under your local marine law (S72) is senseless, cowardly and vindictive
    and will achieve no positive result for any party.

    The real cause of the collision may never be known unless
    Coxswain Lai decides to tell us what happened on the Sea Smooth. However,
    behind the scenes the Hong Kong Marine Department lurks with a litany of lies
    and incompetence which not only lead to the collision being possible, but also
    to the loss of life on Lamma IV because of incompetence and negligence of a
    gross nature by Mardep, which year after year passed the Lamma IV as seaworthy
    despite obvious and fatal construction defects which should have been obvious
    to any reasonably diligent marine surveyor.

    The site of the collision was just South West of the Shek
    Kok Tsui light beacon on the North end of Yung She Wan on Lamma. It was
    well known to all and sundry that the fast ferry from Central passed close to
    that beacon at high speed when inbound to the ferry pier at Yung She Wan, about
    every 20 minutes, day and night. It was also known that the HKE ferry
    travelled North and South across Yung She Wan on a regular basis, with workers
    for the power station. Why, then did Mardep never consider installing a
    buoy to the West of the ferry wharf in Yung She Wan (about 0.3 nautical miles
    off) in the same way that the white/red buoy off the ferry wharves in Central
    separates the inbound and outbound traffic there? If the Southbound
    fast ferry Sea Smooth had been required to keep West of such buoy of Yung She
    Wan, and the Northbound Lamma IV required to track to the East (exactly the same
    as the Central buoy) then this collision WOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED!

    Mardep is again at fault for not realising that this
    situation existed, and for not having dealt with it.

    Also, would you not think that, after such an horrific
    collision caused by the ferries meeting close to end –on, that the fast ferry
    coming into Yung She Wan pier might have learned something, and these days (and
    nights!) kept well out to sea before turning into the pier??? NOT
    SO!! I have spent several days, whilst in Hong Kong for the court case,
    going down to Lamma and watching how those ferries behave. Guess
    what?? They STILL cut the corner around the Skek Kok Tsui light and would
    therefore meet any vessel coming North from HKE in exactly the same way as Sea
    Smooth met the Lamma IV!! Nobody has learned a damn thing from this and
    it could happen again!

    But never mind. In true Hong Kong fashion, the two captains
    have been sent to gaol, “justice” has been seen to be done at the expense of
    these hapless mariners, and the real culprit, Mardep, cringes away and carries
    on in its usual incompetent and dismal fashion.

    And another thing!! Hong Kong has to stop this vile
    practice of criminalising the captains and other employees of ships and
    ferries, in Hong Kong waters, who happened to be less than utterly perfect,
    happened to have made a MISTAKE..but are NOT criminals!! They are simply
    doing their jobs under appallingly difficult conditions, and when something
    goes wrong with the system, they should not have to shoulder the blame.
    What a nasty cowardly legal system you have. It needs to be changed to
    protect mariners who are caught in circumstances such as the Lamma IV and Sea


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