New Ferry Crash in Hong Kong

When I went to Macau from Hong Kong a few days ago my friend made a joke about the ferry, saying she hoped we’d arrive safe at our destination. Of course, everyone in Hong Kong remembers the terrible Lamma Island accident that happened on 1 October 2012, in which 38 people lost their lives. A boat with 120 passengers on board was heading towards Victoria Harbour, where staff of  the power company Hong Kong Electric, which also owned the ferry, were been taken to watch the celebrations for the mid-autumn festival and the National Day of the People’s Republic of China (note).

At around 20:30 local time the boat collided with another vessel near Lamma Island. The crash caused the death of 38 people, while around 100 were injured. This came as a shock for Hong Kongers. It was the worst accident of this kind in 40 years, and in a city that has a reputation for having a safe transport system and in which travel by ferry is a daily matter, a disaster with such a high death toll was unexpected, and for those who lost friends and relatives, it was a life-changing tragedy.

While I was sitting on the boat listening to my friend’s jokes I never thought for an instant that anything could happened to us. That is probably what everyone thinks: ‘it will never happen to me. It will take other 40 years before a similar accident happens again.’

And yet, yesterday at 9:30 pm there was another ferry collision. A ferry heading towards Cheung Chau on the Southeast coast of Lantau Island (see map below) was hit by a barge. It wasn’t as tragic as the Lamma Island crash, but 30 passengers were injured. Yesterday happened to be an extremely foggy day, with heavy rain and more than 90% humidity. As the South China Morning Post reported today, a passenger who was on the boat said that the fog was so thick that he didn’t even know in which harbour they were (South China Morning Post 06/04/2013, p. A).
It would perhaps be better to have stricter safety measures in case of prohibitive weather conditions and of limited visibility caused by the thick fog. Hong Kong heavily relies on ferry boat transport because of its geography: the territory includes over 200 islands, many of which are inhabited. However, there should be more awareness of the risks of travelling in adverse weather conditions. Yesterday’s storm and foggy weather should have cautioned the crew, in whose sense of responsibility the passengers trust.

Categories: Uncategorized

2 replies »

  1. I live in South Lantau and rely heavily on the ferry service. In four years until the Lamma incident I had only heard of a ferry running aground in heavy fog near Cheung Chau. It is often foggy around this time of year and often the ferry slows during this. If you live anywhere near the waterfront in HK you will hear constant fog horns during fog period. They only cancel the service once Typhoon signal T8 is hoisted. It would be a bad thing for us South Lantau residents if they cancelled the service more often as many of us commute daily for our work. Other than perhaps clearing other traffic from the ferry lanes during fog, I am not too sure what else can be done really and as HK is a working harbour I doubt they would do that.

    Cheers, Mark


  2. Thanks for your comment, Mark. I totally understand your point. Of course, it would be a real problem for you and other Lantau residents to be cut off from the rest of Hong Kong. My suggestion would be that they issued a warning but let the passengers decide themselves if they want to take the risk. But I find it quite irresponsible to let people travel when visibility is so low, when the personnel know of the danger.


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