Lamma Island

End incompetent operator's monopoly

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 May, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 May, 1996, 12:00am

If Hong Kong were truly the model of unfettered, free-market capitalism that it is so often held up to be, then the Government would remove the monopoly enjoyed by the Hong Kong and Yaumatei Ferry (HKF) Co.

This incompetent and slovenly operator would be almost certain to fail were it subject to any healthy competition.

On two occasions recently Lamma commuters have been inconvenienced as a result of the company's antiquated fleet.

The first occurred one morning about a month ago, when the scheduled 9.30am boat into Central from Yung Shue Wan was delayed for an hour after the ferry due to make the trip was disabled. Passengers were obliged to cool their heels until another boat could be brought in from Central. Of course, no apology was made by the company and more significantly no reduction in fare offered as compensation.

However a more worrying incident occurred on the evening of May 20, when the 7.40pm boat experienced serious engine problems as it neared Yung Shue Wan. The boat, the Man Chung, appeared to have lost almost all power, and as we finally limped into Yung Shue Wan it appeared that the boat's capacity to 'brake' was also incapacitated. For a moment it seemed we would simply run aground next to the pier.

When a rope was finally secured to the pier, passengers then had to wait as the boat's crew attempted to bring the boat alongside with no braking or manoeuvring capabilities.

Eventually this was achieved, though even then the boat and pier crew appeared to be in no particular hurry to get the tired passengers off the boat. By the time we finally disembarked, the journey which normally takes 40 minutes had taken half an hour longer.

However, my main concern here is the safety of the company's boats. It appeared that the boat had lost almost all power, and had it done so on an evening when conditions had been less calm who knows what may have happened.

On top of incidents such as these, on a daily basis passengers are subjected to dirty, cockroach-infested boats, poor timetables and late-leaving boats.

I urge the relevant authorities to remove the exclusive franchise enjoyed by this company and allow some healthy competition, such as there is for the territory's bus services.

I can see no logical or practical reason why ferry services to outlying islands should be a monopoly.

A simple verbal survey among any group of regular HKF passenger reveals that most would not use the company if an alternative were available.