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Ferry Services Study Required

i Oct 18th No Comments by

Action Required Before Ferry Tender Expires

Time is running out.

The service is up for tender in 2011 – which is far too short a period of time to attract serious new bidders.

This would indicate that we are quite likely to be stuck with the same coterie of operators – providing the same sub-standard service — until 2021.

LIM has urged the Hong Kong government to conduct a proper wide-ranging study into the needs of Lantau residents from scratch (it uses the phrase ab-initio) — in other words jettisoning the preconceptions, assumptions and methodologies dating back in some cases to the 1950s, in order to conduct a meaningful survey of what is needed by Lantau residents now, particularly given recent demographic and cultural changes.

“We find it inconceivable that the present ferry schedules, dating from 1999 and not based upon any study of the needs of the public, can be also be the most efficient.

“Our concern is that the public could be paying high fares for an inefficient service that does not even meet [its] needs.”

[box]View LIM’s position paper on the provision of appropriate and sustainable ferry services for Hong Kong’s outlying islands[/box]

The last tender in 2007 attracted zero bids, local or international, forcing the government onto the back foot – it had to plead with the ferry companies to take part.

A promised government review “with a view to enhancing the long-term financial viability for these services and maintaining fare stability,” pledged in 2008, has yet to materialize.


To add insult to injury, the fare-rise/sailings reduction model introduced in July 2008 when oil prices topped US$140 per barrel remain in force even though prices have fallen from that peak to around $70.

“Regrettably, we have been left with the perception that no thought has been given since 2008 and that we are heading for a repeat, in 10 months time, of the appalling 2007/8 debacle.”

In the morning, there’s nothing fast ferry-wise between 7 am and 8.05 am. The 7 am fast ferry gets into Central at 7.30.

The next one, at 8.05 am, doesn’t arrive until 8.40 am at the earliest – it’s often later — decanting us into Central at the peak of the rush hour.

A 7.30 and/or 7.45 am fast ferry departure would make all the difference, passengers say.

Top of the list of complaints centres on the absurdly long gap between the fast ferry departures in the evening – there are none between 7.30 and 9.30 pm and none between 9.30 and 11.30 pm.

Slow ferry sailings at 8 pm and 8.30 pm and again at 10.30 pm are extremely unpopular.

There is virtually no freight carried on those sailings; the slow sailings cater for those unwilling or unable to pay the higher fare (almost double) charged for travelling by fast ferry.

New World First Ferry Services Ltd says operating costs for fast and slow ferries were about the same.

As such, either fast ferry passengers are subsidizing the (inefficient and polluting) slow ferries or the company is ripping off fast ferry fare-payers.

“At a meeting with a representative of First Ferry, we asked why the 10.30pm ferry could not be replaced by a fast ferry because it is unlikely that there would be any freight at that time.”

“The answer given was that it was necessary for people with monthly tickets. In response, we suggested that, perhaps, they could be given a special dispensation on that ferry for the benefit of the majority. End of discussion!”

New World First Ferry Services Ltd is jointly owned by Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Limited and NWS Holdings Limited. Chow Tai Fook is a private company owned by property tycoon Cheng Yu-tung, who is its chairman, as well as the chairman of New World Development Co. Ltd.

Chow Tai Fook is the major shareholder of New World Development Co. Ltd. (HKSE: 0017).


“… the price for a journey on the MTR for 28 minute from Tsuen Wan to
Central – comparable to the ferry journey from Mui Wo – is $11.50. The present fast ferry fare is

“Even a cursory look reveals some ‘sailings’ that
are inexplicable.

“Gaps between arrival times varies from ZERO to 80 minutes;
… the morning schedule from Mui Wo has inexplicable redundant ‘bunching’ and an excess of
slow ferries;

“The evening schedule also has no apparent rationality. The provision of two slow ferries, one at 20.00 and another 30 minutes later at 20.30 can only be described as ‘weird’.”

“Most outstanding observations are that the morning schedule has a fast ferry gap of 65 minutes at the peak demand period and

the evening has a fast ferry gap of 120 minutes during a period of high demand.”

From First Ferry:
“In respect of your request for average figures for each sailing over the month, we have
requested the ferry operator to consider the request. However, as the information is operational
information for internal use, the ferry operator considers it not appropriate to disclose.”

LIM: “Notwithstanding our doubts about perpetuating the slow ferries, we suggest that the old three deck
ferries provide a delightful way to travel. It is a puzzle why nobody has used these as a
tourist attraction perhaps for inter-island tours.
Two deck ferries on the other hand, have few redeeming features.”







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