New life jacket rules mooted after Lamma sinking - RTHK
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New life jacket rules mooted after Lamma sinking

2018-12-19 HKT 14:08
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  • Polytechnic University was asked to design a life jacket that will fit both adults and children. Photo courtesy: ISD
    Polytechnic University was asked to design a life jacket that will fit both adults and children. Photo courtesy: ISD
James To talks to RTHK's Timmy Sung
Legislators on Wednesday discussed plans to improve marine safety in Hong Kong waters, more than six years after a collision between two boats off Lamma left 39 people dead.

Among several proposals put to lawmakers is a recommendation that vessels are required to have as many life jackets on board as people they're licensed to carry, as opposed to the mixture of life jackets and life buoys many boats are currently allowed to provide instead.

Given the difficulty in predicting how many passengers on a particular sailing will be children, Polytechnic University was asked to come up with a life jacket that would fit both adults and young people. The government said in September that the production of such life jackets was about to get under way.

But the new design won't be suitable for very young children, and the authorities are proposing that commercial vessels licensed to carry more than 12 passengers be required to carry life jackets especially for infants.

The minimum requirement would be a number of infant life jackets equal to 2.5 percent of the number of passengers the boat is licensed to hold.

The vessel which sank on October 1, 2012 was carrying employees of Hong Kong Electric and their relatives who were watching the National Day fireworks show.

Another proposal specifically for when such major events are taking place is to make it mandatory for children aged between 2 and 11 to wear life jackets on boats travelling in "viewing areas".

After Wednesday's Economic Development Panel meeting, Democratic Party legislator James To complained that it isn't easy to see whether the suggested improvements are sufficient, because an internal government investigation into the 2012 ferry sinking has not been made public.

"If we don't have the report publicised openly, how can we have a checklist of those problems, loopholes, implementation irregularities, or law enforcement problems and check ... whether such new measures can tackle the problems we face?" asked To.

He also accused the Marine Department of having being "rotten" for decades and told RTHK's Timmy Sung that he wasn't convinced that efforts to reform the department will be sustained.

The Director of Marine, Maisie Cheng, said it may not be possible to change a deep-seated culture within her department overnight.

But she said officials have spent the past six years strengthening the department's management and she is confident the work culture will change in the long run.