SEVENTY years ago the Hong Kong and Yaumati Ferry Co Ltd launched its first cross-harbour routes with only 11 steamboats. Over the years, the service has grown and prospered, providing the people of Hong Kong with a comfortable, convenient and economical service. As time passed, the company has pursued the objective of offering a high-quality service at low cost and, despite the challenges of war, technological change and increasing competition from other modes of transport, it has maintained its position as a leading ferry operator. Today, in a considerably more competitive age of sophisticated engineering, HYF continues to play a key role in the territory's diverse transportation network. With a fleet of 92 vessels it is the world's largest passenger ferry service organisation, in terms of the number of routes being operated and passengers carried. We are examining additional routes to support new communities in the New Territories, to link up with the new airport and to expand services in neighbouring territories, in Macau and with China. This will entail considerable investment in upgrading the fleet, improving piers and strengthening the company's human resources. Despite the large funding required, the company remains firmly committed to its important social role of providing essential services at low cost. For this, thanks are due to our board of directors, who have been most supportive. With the acquisition of modern craft, such as the two hi-tech catamarans bought this year, we continue to raise the standard of service to meet the increasingly high expectations of consumers. This will be achieved through additional investments enhancing information technology in computerisation, in reinforcing our staff training programmes and in up-grading our piers. HYF has adapted to changing circumstances over the years and provided the people of Hong Kong a ferry service appropriate to the needs of the time. We intend to hold firm to this principle, responding to the demands of our own age, and resolving to provide the community with an affordable, reliable and modern ferry service relevant to the requirements of Hong Kong in the 21st century. In this way, we will hold true to the vision of those who founded this company 70 years ago. I take this opportunity to thank our 1,500 staff and frontline crews, who have been working diligently under tremendous pressure at their routine operations, and who often demonstrate skill and courage during extreme conditions in the typhoon season and in other emergency situations.