Experts suspect floating debris caused Sunday's ferry accident

October 27, 2015 19:34
Floating debris not only threatens the well-being of marine creatures, it also poses great danger to vessels at sea. The picture on the right shows the ferry that was involved in an accident Sunday. Photos: HKEJ

As authorities conduct an investigation into Sunday's accident involving a high-speed ferry, some experts suspect the vessel may have slammed into a bulky item floating as trash in the waters.

Choi Leung-pei, retired vice-president of Hong Kong Seamen’s Union and a veteran turbojet captain, said it is not uncommon to find cabinets, refrigerators, old LPG gas cylinders and even marine cable reels floating in Hong Kong waters.

Though marine debris has been reduced in recent years, the problem has not gone away, he told the Hong Kong Economic Journal. 

Leung Ming-kei, permanent vice-president of Hong Kong & Kowloon Motor Boats & Tug Boats Association, said litter is found often in the waters between Lantau Island and Siu A Chau, where the disaster happened on Sunday.

Though turbojets are assisted by radar and watchtower guards at night, floating litter is not easy to spot and avoid, he said.

Another veteran tugboat captain and a member of the Harbour Transportation Workers General Union said mega-projects in the Pearl River Delta, including the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge, have created much waste in the zone.

Torn wires and buckets are often found afloat at sea, especially after typhoons, said the person, who merely identified himself as Lai.

Since turbojets travel at a high speed of 38 to 45 nautical miles per hour on average, if there is bulky metallic trash afloat, it will be sucked toward the vessel and collide against the bottom of the boat, Lai said.

That could create cracks on the ship body and potentially even cause water to flow into the vessel.

Hung Ka-yiu, president of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, said he couldn't help but wonder whether the high-speed boat may have slammed into some Chinese white dolphins.

He pointed out that the marine creatures have been forced to waters southwest to Lantau Island since construction began on the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge.

On Oct. 25, a turbojet carrying 163 passengers and 11 crew members from Macau to Hong Kong hit an "unidentified object" on sea, throwing passengers off their seats and causing injuries to dozens.

Following the accident, which happened at around 6 pm, the ferry lost power and passengers had to stumble around in the dark.

As many as 124 people were injured, with more than half a dozen suffering serious wounds. As of Tuesday, one person remained in critical condition.

[Chinese version中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal