Maritime Matter of the Week

Human Error Thought To Be Cause Of Hong Kong Maritime Accident


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Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. is comprised of attorneys that are nationally-recognized industry leaders in the field of maritime and admiralty law. Our team of lawyers has over a century of combined experience, has successfully handled over 3,000 cases, and has recovered over 300 million dollars in damages for our clients.

When an accident at sea takes place, especially if it results in serious injuries or fatalities, victims are entitled to seek help with a maritime lawyer. Many times, the vessel’s operators are found to have contributed to the incident, and if found liable, may result in the victim or surviving loved ones obtaining damages for their pain and suffering. A tragic ferry accident in Hong Kong that took place in October led to the deaths of 39 people, and now, authorities are saying the incident was the result of human error, which can lead the company to be responsible for paying damages to the victims.

According to British maritime expert Capt. Nigel Pryke, human error was “undoubtedly” the cause of the tragic ferry accident. In Thursday testimony, Capt. Pryke said an analysis of the incident suggested the main fault for the crash lay with the captain of the Sea Smooth, a commuter ferry that was transporting passengers from Hong Kong Island to the dock at Lamma Island. On Oct. 1, the Sea Smooth collided with the Lamma IV, a company boat that had been out at sea with several employees (and family members) of Hongkong Electric Co. to watch holiday fireworks commemorating the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The Lamma IV sank within five minutes of the crash, leaving many onboard to become trapped inside the vessel’s cabin as it became submerged. Of the 39 lives that were claimed in the accident, at least eight were children.

Experts say this was the city’s worst maritime disaster in 40 years, and according to Capt. Pryke, the Sea Smooth’s captain was alone manning the helm when the collision took place. According to maritime rules, when two vessels are about to experience a head-on collision, each boat is supposed to turn starboard (right) in order to avoid a crash. Investigations show that the Lamma IV altered its course 13 degrees starboard, but the Sea Smooth turned 16 degrees to the left-hand port side instead. This move, according to Capt. Pryke, was done “in an apparent attempt to cross ahead of Lamma IV.”

Although he doesn’t necessarily believe the Lamma IV was completely without fault, having been able to pay more attention to radar readings to avoid the collision, Capt. Pryke, whose analysis is based on radar tracking information and evidence provided by Hong Kong authorities, said the majority of the fault lies with the Sea Smooth.

“Even at the very last moment she could have very easily avoided contact with a small alteration of course to starboard,” he said. “[The Sea Smooth] was primarily responsible for the collision.” He added that human error was “undoubtedly” the cause of the maritime accident, which could have been largely due to the fact that the captain had been alone in the wheelhouse.

In addition, the Sea Smooth had been traveling at a high speed of 24 knots, twice that of the Lamma IV, when the collision took place.

At this point, victims and loved ones can turn to a maritime lawyer for help in filing a claim against the Sea Smooth and captain.

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