Plans to renew the Star Ferry's ageing fleet have been jeopardised by the rejection of a requested 44 per cent fare rise, the company claims. General manager Frankie Yick Chi-ming said the rise would have helped replace vessels, some up to 40 years old. New ferries could cost up to $25 million each. 'The Star Ferry is an international icon of Hong Kong and we must keep the image going,' he said. 'But we can only do this if our financial situation allows.' The proposed rise was excessive, according to the Transport Advisory Committee, which recommended 7.5 per cent. That would raise upper deck fares on the Central to Tsim Sha Tsui route by 20 cents to $2.20. Under the company proposal the fare would have been $2.90. Lower deck fares would be unchanged. 'If the Government goes ahead with the recommendation then we will only yield a return of about two per cent on turnover and no operator can be satisfied with that,' Mr Yick said. Committee chairman Dr Raymond Ho Chung-tai said passengers should not have to pay for companies having difficulties 'balancing their books'.