‘Systemic Failings’ to Blame for Hong Kong Boat Crash

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Our maritime accident attorneys have seen many different types of collisions at sea, but by far, one of the worst accidents took place last year in the waters of Hong Kong after a personal watercraft and ferry boat collided in October. And now, a report into the tragic boat crash that killed 39 people says that “systemic failings” in the nation’s marine department contributed to the incident.

The report listed “a litany of errors” committed by the marine department regarding boating safety for passengers, including a lack of lifejackets for children and the absence of a watertight door on one vessel.

The vessels in question, the pleasure boat Lamma IV, and a high-speed ferry, the Sea Smooth, collided in Victoria Harbour off of Lamma Island in Hong Kong on Oct. 1, National Day holiday. The ferry crashed into the Lamma IV, which was transporting a group of Hong Kong Electric company employees and their families who had gone out to see to watch the holiday fireworks and the vessel sank just minutes after the impact.


Many have called the tragic crash the worst maritime accident in Hong Kong in over 40 years and have questioned the safety of the Harbour, which is one of the world’s busiest ports. Dozens of cargo ships, personal watercrafts and other maritime vessels sail through the Harbour daily, and thousands of people are at risk to be injured or killed in a collision.

The deadly crash between the Lamma IV and Sea Smooth further demonstrated the need for improved safety in the port and for vessel operators to learn better safety protocols. The recent report showed that the marine department did not enforce safety standards sufficiently on the Lamma IV.

“In the process of designing, constructing and surveying the Lamma IV… there was a litany of errors committed at almost every stage by many different people,” read the report. “While the vessel was determined to be vessel compliant with safety standards, the lack of a watertight door to the steering gear compartment led to the Lamma IV sinking quickly.”
Additionally, the seats on the ferry were not bolted down, causing them to slide and trap the victims after the crash.

Hong Kong’s chief executive Leung Chun-ying said the government would take the report seriously and make the necessary changes.

“We must learn the lesson and spare no efforts in making fundamental improvements and reforms to ensure marine safety and restore public confidence,” he said.

Unfortunately, the damage is already done and 39 people lost their lives because someone else’s negligence. Three crewmembers from each vessel were arrested following the boating accident, and many have criticized their lack of knowledge pertaining to emergency maritime accidents, for which both boat companies can be held liable for.

Sadly, boating accidents are usually completely preventable. Proper training, maintaining a suitable speed, wearing lifejackets, and operating a vessel sober are all ways to reduce the number of accidents at sea and remain as safe as possible.

Photo Credit: Hong Kong boat crash – thetimes.co.uk