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LCQ13: Safety issues related to vessel berthing and oil depots

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Kwok-hing and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, in the Legislative Council today (October 19):


     When Hong Kong was hit by Typhoon Nesat on September 29 this year, it was suspected that a semi-submersible work barge had broken free from its anchor chain and was carried by wind and waves towards the oil depot on the shore of Chai Wan before it stranded off the shore between Block 49 and Block 50 of Heng Fa Chuen, thereby causing damage to the pipelines of the oil depot and the pier facilities as well as the seawall at Heng Fa Chuen.  As the concrete conveying pipe on the work barge was very close to Block 49 of Heng Fa Chuen at that time, around 60 residents had to undergo emergency evacuation while Typhoon Signal No. 8 was in force.  Regarding this serious incident, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) during a site visit on October 6 this year jointly conducted by representatives of the Marine Department and myself, they initially informed me of a preliminary plan to remove the work barge involved in the incident, but the detailed removal plan had yet to be submitted by the shipping company concerned to the relevant government department for approval, whether the authorities can give details of the approved plan for removing the work barge and the safety measures concerned, so as to ease the worries of the residents in Heng Fa Chuen;

(b) apart from this incident, whether the authorities had received complaints or reports during typhoons in the past ten years regarding damages caused to the waterfront of Heng Fa Chuen due to strong gales and waves or vessels and objects washed to the shore by waves; if they have, of the details, and how the authorities followed up such cases;

(c) given that the concrete conveying pipe on the work barge involved in the incident was just some 10 metres away from the residential building when the barge drifted to the shore near Heng Fa Chuen, whether the authorities will contact representatives of the residents in Heng Fa Chuen, so as to review and study the feasibility of carrying out safety or stabilising works on the seawall near Heng Fa Chuen (including the provision of additional facilities to strengthen and protect the seawall from any impact from vessels) in order to ensure safety of the residents in Heng Fa Chuen; if they will, of the timetable for such a study;

(d) given that the barge involved in the incident was originally berthed at the anchorage area in Tseung Kwan O, and it was carried along by the wind and waves to the shore near Heng Fa Chuen, whether the authorities will carry out a detailed review on the safety, guidelines and inspection regarding the use of anchorage areas as well as the impact of the anchorage area on the safety of adjacent shores, and draw up improvement measures accordingly;

(e) given that this incident has also caused damages to the pier of the oil depot in Chong Fu Road, Chai Wan as well as the nearby bridge facilities, residents in the vicinity were worried about the safety of the oil depot (including the risks of explosion, fire and pollution from oil leakage), whether the authorities have contacted the oil company concerned after the incident and reviewed afresh the safety of the oil depot (including risks posed to the oil depot by typhoons and tremendous waves); if they have, of the details of the review and the outcome concerned; and

(f) whether the authorities will study the feasibility of permanently relocating the oil depot in Chong Fu Road, Chai Wan, which is close to residential areas, and building additional seawalls or other barrier facilities in the vicinity of Heng Fa Chuen and Chai Wai, so as to avoid recurrence of similar incidents?

Reply :


     Since the incident which involved the stranding of a semi-submersible work barge off the seawall of Heng Fa Chuen (HFC), the Marine Department (MD) has been closely monitoring the situation and has tasked the owner of the work barge to take follow-up actions to ensure that the vessel would not pose threat to nearby residential development.  At the request of the Administration, the owner has dismantled the crane on the semi-submersible work barge and the conveying pipe of the concrete mixing vessel and has taken additional measures to secure the work barge.  Our response to the different parts of the question is as follows:

(a) MD has received the salvage plan from the owner of the stranded semi-submersible work barge.  The plan was prepared by a qualified surveyor commissioned by the owner, having regard to such factors as the damages to the work barge, characteristics of the seabed at the location at which the barge is stranded, and tidal conditions.  MD is looking into the operational details and safety measures for the various stages of the plan.  Meanwhile, the owner and his contractor are proceeding with the relevant preparatory work.  If weather permits, it is expected that the barge can be salvaged and towed away in early November.

(b) According to records in the past ten years, the relevant departments received report of one case of damage to certain public facilities and those of HFC at the waterfront due to high waves or objects being washed ashore.  The case took place during the passage of Typhoon Hagupit in September 2008.  Repair works for damaged facilities was subsequently carried out by the relevant departments and the estate management company of HFC (the company).

(c) MD has been liaising with the owners' committee and the company on the incident and had jointly conducted on-site inspection in conjunction with other relevant department.  Having regard to the fact that the primary function of the seawall at HFC, which is managed and maintained by the company, is to protect the land adjacent to it from the erosion and impact of waves, the relevant technical department will continue to follow up with the company on the repair works required so that the seawall can continue to perform its protective function.

(d) An anchorage is a water area designated for vessels to berth.  The safe use of the anchorages depends on whether vessels anchored thereat have taken appropriate measures as circumstances may warrant (such as whether suitable precautionary measures are taken during typhoons).  In this regard, MD has re-assessed the precautionary measures that vessels similar to the one stranded should take under adverse weather.  To ensure safety, MD will also make adjustments and arrangements such as anchorage locations having regard to the prevailing situation.  MD will also remind vessel operators to take early precautionary measures through radio broadcast once typhoon signals are hoisted.

(e) and (f) All oil depots in Hong Kong are required to comply with the Government's risk guidelines and the relevant legislation.  Oil depots and their facilities must undergo risk assessment conducted by the relevant departments including the Fire Services Department, MD and Buildings Department in accordance with internationally recognised safety standards.  The licence to operate and store oil would only be issued after the depots / facilities have passed the assessment and are in compliance with the statutory and specific safety requirements.  As the storage tanks of the oil terminal of Sinopec Hong Kong on Chong Fu Road (the oil terminal company) are located onshore and at a considerable distance from the mooring pier, the Administration considers that the risk for them to be hit by vessels is low.  Nonetheless, the oil terminal company has agreed to explore measure to better protect the pier and review the safety of the oil terminal.

     As for the suggestion on whether a breakwater or other protective facilities could be built around the HFC and Chai Wan area, the Administration is of the view that the construction of a breakwater would have implications on marine traffic and navigational safety in the vicinity.  It might also adversely affect the current and water quality in the area.  The preliminary view is that such installations might not be necessary but the situation would be kept in view.

Ends/Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:56


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