Hong Kong’s Star Ferry granted rights to continue operations for next 15 years
Free Wi-fi at piers and environmentally friendly vessels part of measures to upgrade service quality
Hong Kong’s iconic Star Ferry will remain a familiar sight for the next 15 years, as its operator was on Tuesday granted franchise rights to continue running two vessel routes across Victoria Harbour.
The move allows the Star Ferry Company to continue operations between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, as well as Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui, till March 31, 2033. Its current franchise rights will expire at the end of the month.
The Transport and Housing Bureau said the key factor that the government had considered in awarding the extension to Star Ferry was its service performance.
“Star Ferry has been providing proper and efficient ferry services to the public,” a spokesman said.
The government said it had asked the ferry operator to proactively follow up on concerns raised by the public. The company launched new measures in response, such as improving service quality and raising the environmental friendliness of its operations.
To further upgrade its service, Star Ferry would offer free Wi-fi service in passenger waiting areas at the piers from next month, the government spokesman said. Staff training would also be strengthened to improve standards and proficiency in English and Mandarin.
The company had also vowed to continue exploring how its services could be diversified to attract more tourists.
To be environmentally friendly, Star Ferry would also retrofit the diesel engines of two vessels with a green diesel-electric propulsion system this year, and make changes to the rest of the fleet progressively. It also said it was willing to consider introducing electric ferries.
As for harbourfront enhancements, the company would consolidate the management of various piers, according to the government.
Under the new franchise plan, Star Ferry will take on overall management responsibilities for Central Pier No 7 and the Central Terminal Building, Wan Chai Ferry Pier and Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier.
Hong Kong’s Star Ferry pledges greener service but same cheap fares as it plans HK$56 million upgrades
Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, spokesman for the Coalition to Monitor Public Transport and Utilities, an NGO, welcomed the franchise grant for Star Ferry.
Tsoi said: “Fifteen years is long enough for the ferry company to better itself and plan long-term for its development.
“Although it won’t be easy to make money from operating ferry services nowadays, we hope that Star Ferry will continue to invest more in its fleet and facilities to upgrade its service and attract more passengers.”
He also urged the government to map out a clearer policy on ferry services. “We have a beautiful harbour and a long coastline. There should be no shortage of business opportunities for developing this.”