New Taipa ferry terminal rights allotted to upstarts

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2007, 12:00am

Shun Tak application to operate services to Pac On ignored

Pansy Ho Chiu-king, the managing director of Shun Tak Holdings, which dominates the Hong Kong-Macau ferry route, criticised the enclave's government for ignoring the company's application to operate passenger services to a new ferry terminal on Taipa Island, instead giving initial rights to two other companies to compete against her outfit's key revenue generator.

The Pac On terminal, which opens on Thursday in a 2.18 billion pataca three-berth temporary facility adjacent to the Macau International Airport on Taipa, will be served by two upstart ferry operators including Cotai Waterjets, owned by Venetian Macau developer Las Vegas Sands Corp.

'We do not agree that Shun Tak is out,' Ms Ho told reporters at a bronze lion statue unveiling ceremony at the US$1.1 billion MGM Grand Macau yesterday.

'We submitted an application one year ago to apply for six berthing allocations [at Pac On] which to date has not received a response.

'We have been very forthcoming in terms of trying to appeal to the government to discuss with us what their concerns and requirements are going forward and so far we have not had a response.'

Shun Tak, controlled by Ms Ho's father, gaming magnate Stanley Ho Hung-sun, has dominated ferry travel between Hong Kong and Macau since launching the service in 1962.

The service carried a record six million passengers between the two cities in the first half of this year.

The route is the backbone of the company's transport division, which booked HK$1.08 billion in sales during the first half and accounted for 75 per cent of group turnover.

In addition to the Las Vegas Sands service, which begins hourly sailings to Hong Kong from Thursday, Pac On will be served by an operator owned by a consortium of investors including local businessman Ng Fok. They will launch a 1,200-seat ferry in the coming months.

A larger permanent facility in the same location is slated for completion by 2009.

Las Vegas Sands will launch with three ferries ranging in size from 320 to 411 seats.

The company has nine more vessels on order and set for delivery in phases ending in May.

Sands' president for the Asian region, Stephen Weaver, yesterday said the firm would sign a formal concession agreement with the Macau government tomorrow and expected to secure rights to two berths at the Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan, which is managed by the Hong Kong Marine Department and used by ferry operators including Shun Tak and New World.

Cotai Waterjets tickets will be priced from HK$140 for economy seats and HK$240 for first class, matching rates on Shun Tak's Hong Kong-Macau service, according to Mr Weaver.

Ms Ho said the company had learned that rival operators had secured approvals to use the Pac On terminal only from news reports.

'As an operator and concession holder, to date we have not been notified by the government as to any specific decision,' she said.

'According to the way we interpret our concession, we automatically have the right to access new piers. We will continue to pursue [Pac On rights] because it is in the interests of the public.'

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