Red flag raised over marine safety after Hong Kong's third runway is built: Academic and former Observatory director Lam Chiu-ying says confidential report downplays potential accidents in narrower marine highway

A confidential consultant's report assessing the risk of marine traffic accidents after a large area is -reclaimed for the proposed third airport runway has underestimated the number and scale of potential accidents, says a veteran environmental scientist who has obtained the report. 

South China Morning Post  2016-4-12 

The report estimated that the number of marine traffic accidents would increase by one per year after the reclamation - rising to 37 accidents per year by 2030. 

Lam Chiu-ying, an adjunct professor at Chinese University's department of geography and -resource management, said the document had failed to take into account the number of vessels sailing through Hong Kong waters. 

Lam, a former Observatory director, said after the reclamation was completed, the width of Urmston Road, a major marine passage between Lantau and Tuen Mun, would shrink by half, while the number of vessels sailing through the area would grow, including ferries running -between Hong Kong, Macau and the Pearl River Delta, and heavy cargo ships.

This would make large-scale accidents such as collisions -between passenger ferries and cargo ships highly likely, he said. 

Lam added that the report, in evaluating the risk on society as a whole, used much smaller per capita risk figures which indicated that they were acceptable. 

He said his own calculations showed that this was not the case by standards set in the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance. 

Furthermore, he said, an oil rig belonging to the Shenzhen government was sited about 2km from the end of the third runway, which would affect flight landings there. He said the report reflected the problem, but the government was keeping this away from the public. 

"I'm very disappointed," Lam said. "I've raised the mistakes several times with the government, but they brushed them aside as mere opinions instead of statements based on scientific grounds. 

"If large-scale accidents happen after the reclamation, I wonder whether they can sleep well." 

The Airport Authority has commissioned two studies on the impact the reclamation may have on nearby waters. 

Both reports, finished in March last year, have been kept confidential. 

Lam said he had seen only one of the two documents. 

Lam filed his opposition to the project in July last year during a public consultation exercise. The Lands Department is expected to submit all the opinions collected to the Executive Council later this month. 

The HK$141.5 billion runway project will be funded from three sources: bank loans and issued bonds, the airport's operational surplus and an airport construction fee imposed on departing passengers. 

Reclamation work is expected to be completed around 2023.