Star Ferry "Silver Star" approaching Star Ferry Pier, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
The "Star" Ferry Company Limited is owned by The Wharf (Holdings), which has extensive commercial and residential property holdings in Hong Kong and Singapore and its iconic Star Ferry services are regarded as one of Hong Kong’s most famous heritage and cultural attractions, providing both a remarkably inexpensive method of crossing the harbour and the opportunity for some spectacular views of the harbour and Hong Kong Island and Kowloon waterfronts. The service has operated since 1888 when Dorabjee Nowrojee, a Parsee, started a daily steam boat ferry, Morning Star, which operated between Peddar's Wharf in Pedder Street, Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. The service operated under the name Kowloon Ferry Company and carried employees of Hong Kong and Kowloon Wharf Godown Company across the harbour free of charge whilst in return, Kowloon Wharf provided the wharf and maintenance of the ferry. The name Star Ferry was adopted in December 1898 when the company was bought by businessman Paul Chater and a 40-minute sailing frequency was in operated with a fare of only five cents. During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong the service was suspended for a period of 44 months from December 1941. In 1966, when the company applied for a fare increase from ten HK cents to fifteen HK cents, 27-year old So Sau-chung staged a hunger strike at the Central pier and was arrested leading to widespread protests and riots with about 430 people being arrested and services disrupted. Star Ferry backed down and restricted the fare rise to the first-class section only. The ferry remained the main method of crossing the harbour until the Cross Harbour Tunnel opened in 1972. The original fleet of boats utilised four single-deck coal-fired steam vessels and the current fleet comprises twelve double-deck diesel-electric air-conditioned vessels. The two newest boats "Golden Star" and "World Star" can each accommodate 750 passengers, 200 more than the rest of the fleet. In October 2014 Star Ferry announced proposals for a trial to retrofit one of its ferries with a modern diesel-powered generator driven electric motor propulsion system to replace the existing ancient diesel combustion engine. A separate water scrubber was also be fitted to the generator. The existing Star Ferry engines are unable to burn modern clean-burning fuels. The trial was supported by the Environmental Protection Department's pilot green transport fund and is expected to reduce fuel consumption and cut emissions. The ferry chosen for the trial previously operated on the Wan Chai - Hung Hom route which closed in 2011 and following tendering for the work and installation "World Star" entered service in November 2016 operating Star Ferry's new "Water Tour" to the Tsing Ma Bridge and Disneyland Resort Pier.
Current services operate on two routes at intervals from 6 minutes.
The routes are;
Central (Central Ferry Pier 7) to Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon Point) - 9 minutes journey
Wan Chai (New Wan Chai Ferry Pier) to Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon Point) - 8 minutes journey
The average daily passenger patronage at mid-2016 was about 54,000 (approx. 39,000 for the Central - Tsim Sha Tsui route and 15,000 for the Wan Chai - Tsim Sha Tsui route. Overall average daily patronage for the whole year 2016 was 53,400. During 2021 the daily patronage declined to 26,000 mainly due to a dearth of tourists owing to strict entry requirements to Hong Kong for overseas visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
From 1999 until 2011 Star Ferry also operated two cross-harbour routes between Central and Hung Hom and Wan Chai and Hung Hom. Following heavy financial losses on these routes the company did not seek to renew the three-year licence to operate these routes when it expired on 31st March 2011. No other ferry operator expressed an interest in taking over the Wan Chai to Hung Hom service but Fortune Ferry Company has been awarded a licence to operate a new Central (Pier 8) to Hung Hom ferry service from 28th Juine 2020.
Star Ferry "Day Star"
The new Star Ferry Piers in Central (Central Ferry Piers 7 and 8) opened in November 2006 after closure and subsequent demolition of the Edinburgh Place Star Ferry piers, some 300 metres distant, which had been built in 1957. Demolition was necessary to make way for the six-lane Central-Wanchai by-pass which is now under construction and due to be completed in 2018. The historic clock tower was dismantled with a government promise that it would be restored and displayed nearby and it remains to be seem whether this pledge is fulfilled.
During June 2011 the Harbourfront Commission announced a redevelopment plan for Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier which would involve adding an extra floor to the existing two-storey building and would increase retail space from 385 sq metres to 863 sq metres and provide an additional 1,472 sq metres of dining space. The plan includes a rooftop dining and viewing area with public access. The plan has been generally well received as it preserves the original architectural design but no timetable for commencement and completion of the work has yet been announced.
Central Pier 7, location of Star Ferry pier on Hong Kong Island since 2006
The new piers are much more spacious than the old ones and have viewing decks and shops. Central Pier 7 has the prestigious Watermark Restaurant with harbour views. Central Pier 8, from where the Star Ferry Central - Hung Hom route had operated before its closure in 2011 is still partially occupied by Star Ferry Company but since February 2013 is also the new location for Hong Kong Maritime Museum which previously operated from leased premises at Murray House, Stanley until expiry of the lease in early 2012.
Star Ferry "Twinkling Star" at the old Wan Chai Ferry Pier which closed in August 2014 and has since been demolished to make way for the Central - Wan Chai bypass and MTR Exhibition Station
Only the upper deck is available to passengers on the Wan Chai - Tsim Sha Tsui route. The new two-storey Wan Chai Ferry Pier opened on 30th August 2014. The old pier has been demolished as part of the Central - Wan Chai Bypass project due for completion in 2017. The relocation of the Wan Chai ferry pier, although by only about 50-metres eastwards and slightly north onto reclaimed land, after one year of opening has led to a drop in average daily passenger numbers on this route of about 20% from 19,400 to 14,900, possibly owing to the increased distance from the elevated walkway system link to the commercial district of Wan Chai.
The new two-storey Wan Chai Ferry Pier which opened in August 2014. Star Ferry services now operate from this pier and the journey time to Tsim Sha Tsui remains the same
On the Central to Tsim Tsa Tsui route both upper and lower decks are available to passengers but on the other three less heavily used routes only the upper deck is usually used except at very busy times.
Lower Deck entrance, Star Ferry Pier, Central (Central Pier 7)
Upper Deck entrance to Star Ferry Pier, Central (Central Pier 7)
Passengers on the Central to Tsim Sha Tsui route will find the journey on the upper deck more comfortable and spacious. However the lower deck allows more freedom to walk around the edge of the deck and is better for photography although diesel fumes on this deck from the engines can sometimes be unpleasant.
Star Ferry Upper Deck Interior
Entrance to the new Wan Chai Ferry Pier which opened in August 2014
HUNG HOM ROUTES RELINQUISHMENT 2011
Patronage has suffered following relocation of the Central Star Ferry Pier and the Star Ferry currently carries about 38,000 passengers a day on its Central - Tsim Sha Tsui route (down by about 25% since pier relocation) and 20,000 a day on the Wan Chai - Tsim Sha Tsui route. Future patronage is expected to be affected by two years of construction work from 2011 at the Star Ferry Bus Terminus site in Tsim Sha Tsui and redevelopment of Wan Chai Ferry Pier as part of the Central-Wan Chai Bypass infrastructure work. Star Ferry Company earns HK$3.3 million annually from two rooftop advertising billboards at Wan Chai Ferry Pier. Since January 2011 additional revenue has been generated by external advertising on the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier which has given the pier an unfamiliar look. Star Ferry has utilised profits from its two Tsim Sha Tsui routes to subsidise its Hung Hom routes but in September 2010 the company confirmed that in view of falling patronage, competition fron rail operators and harbourfront redevelopment it did not intend seeking renewal of its three-year licence to operate its two Hung Hom routes when the licence expired on 31st March 2011. The two routes, which Star Ferry* have operated since 1999, were put out to tender by the government for the service to be maintained but no other operator expressed an interest.
*Star Ferry also previously operated a Central - Hung Hom route from 1965 but this was suspended in 1967 and not reinstated until a new licence took effect in 1999. Passenger numbers had not achieved levels predicted by the Transport Department and the service tied up four boats for the route which had a longer journey time than its other routes.
STAR FERRY FLOATING RESTAURANT
In December 2011 The Star Ferry Company's owner, Wharf Holdings, confirmed proposals to convert one of its retired vessels into a floating fine dining restaurant in an attempt to increase its revenues. The lower deck would be converted into a kitchen and the upper deck would be the dining area. The restaurant would initially be located at a harbour pier but may later be moved to the new Central waterfront, currently under construction. The floating restaurant was planned to open in early 2013 but had still not materialised by 2019.
FARES AND SAILING FREQUENCIES
Fares remained unaltered from 1997 until 2009. However, having been unable to absorb substantially increased costs and loss of revenue resulting from a 19% drop in passengers following relocation of the Star Ferry Pier in Central fare increases were approved and staged in two phases effective from 29 March 2009 and 1 January 2010. The increases applied to the Central to Tsim Sha Tsui and the Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui routes and added 30 HK cents to the cost of weekday journeys and 80 HK cents to weekend and public holiday journeys.
In the light of continuing heavy losses, projected future operating costs, revenue and increased costs and the Star Ferry's status as one of Hong Kong's most important heritage and cultural icons, in April 2012 the government approved a further fare rise for weekend and public holiday services. From 24th June 2012, fares on both routes on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays adult fares increased by 40 cents and child and disabled persons fares by 30 cents. The cost of a 4-day tourist ticket was reduced from HK$34 to HK$25 as, since Hong Kong Tramways was sold by Star Ferry's owner, Wharf, to Veolia, it no longer includes tram journeys. In addition, the government has agreed to reimburse Star Ferry for the total revenue foregone, estimated at HK$3.8 million per annum, for offering elderly concessions (free journeys for people age 65 and over) for the period from 24th June 2012 until the end of 2013. Bicycles are allowed only at off-peak times, and only on the lower deck of the Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui route. From 24th June 2012 a bicycle fare of HK$13 (previously free) was introduced. In July 2016, following a continued decline in revenue mainly due to a drop in passenger numbers on the Tsim Sha Tsui - Wan Chai route following relocation of Wan Chai Ferry Pier, Star Ferry submitted an application for fare increases to be implemented in two phases. Under the proposals adult fares would have risen by between 40 cents and 60 cents in February 2017 and by a further 20 cents in early 2018 which would have resulted in a cumulative increase amounting to over 25% but the government found insufficient grounds to support that proposal. Instead an increase averaging 8.9% was approved to take effect from 15th July 2017. Star Ferry's current franchise expires at the end of March 2018 and following a review of its performance by the Government, a new 15-year franchise has been awarded which runs from 1st April 2018 to 31st March 2033. In consideration of the new franchise award Star Ferry agreed to provide a free wi-fi service in the passenger areas of its piers, develop an app for passenger information and strengthen staff training including English proficiency. The company will also retrofit two of its diesel vessels with diesel-electric propulsion systems in 2018 with remaining vessels to be retrofitted at a rate of one per year. Star Ferry will also take over management of Central Pier 7, Central Terminal Building, Wan Chai Ferry Pier and Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier. In December 2019 Star Ferry applied for an overall fare increase of 16.5% which would result in an increase of 30 to 50 cents on existing fares. The application has been approved by the government and revised fares take effect from 9th February 2021.
FARES (EFFECTIVE FROM 9th FEBRUARY 2021);
CENTRAL - TSIM SHA TSUI (KOWLOON POINT);
Ferries operate at intervals of 6 to 12 minutes from 06-30 to 23-30 daily
Adult Monday - Friday HK$3.2 Upper Deck, HK$2.6 Lower Deck. Saturday, Sunday and public holidays HK$4.2 Upper Deck, HK$3.6 Lower Deck.
Child age 3-12 Monday - Friday HK$1.9 Upper Deck, HK$1.8 Lower Deck, Saturday, Sunday and public holidays HK$2.5 Upper Deck, HK$2.4 Lower Deck.
Child under 3 and passenger age 65* and over - free
* on production of HKID card or senior citizen card and using Personalised Octopus Card or Elder Octopus Card
Bicycles are not allowed on this route.
WAN CHAI - TSIM SHA TSUI (KOWLOON POINT);
Ferries operate at intervals of between 8 and 20 minutes from 07-30 to 22-50 daily.
Adult Monday - Friday HK$3.2 Saturday, Sunday and public holidays HK$4.2
Child age 3-12 Monday - Friday HK$1.9 Saturday, Sunday and public holidays HK$2.5
Child under 3 and passenger age 65* and over - free
* on production of HKID card or senior citizen card and using Personalised Octopus Card or Elder Octopus Card
Bicycles (max capacity 10 bicycles or 8 bicycles and 2 wheelchairs) allowed on this route during non-peak hours. HK$16
METHOD OF FARE PAYMENT - by Octopus Card or token only (turnstiles which had accepted exact fare in coins were removed in May 2014). Token vending machines are located on the approach to the turnstiles at each pier.
Further timetable information can be obtained from the Star Ferry website;
Star Ferry Token Machines. Fares can be paid by Octopus Card or tokens
Concourse, Star Ferry Pier, Tsim Sha Tsui
Star Ferry "Celestial Star" at Central Ferry Pier 7
Star Ferry Pier, Tsim Sha Tsui. Redevelopment plans were announced in June 2011 which would see an extra floor added to the existing two-storey structure for retail, dining and viewing space, whilst retaining the original architectural design
A special Tourist Ticket is currently available at a cost of HK$32 allowing four consecutive days unlimited travel on both the Central to Tsim Sha Tsui and Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui routes.
STAR FERRY'S HARBOUR TOUR (SERVICE CURRENTLY SUSPENDED)
Star Ferry also operate the circular STAR FERRY HARBOUR TOUR daily in the specially adapted “Shining Star” ferry;
Star Ferry "Shining Star" operating the Star Ferry Harbour Cruise
Star Ferry's Harbour Tour Ticket Counter, Star Ferry Concourse, Tsim Sha Tsui
STAR FERRY WATER TOUR (SERVICE CURRENTLY SUSPENDED)
Star Ferry has introduced a round-trip “Water Tour” from Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier to Disneyland Resort Pier. The new tour, which began operating on 15th December 2016, utilises a completely renovated Star Ferry withdrawn from service in 2011 when the Wan Chai – Hung Hom route closed. Co-funded by the Pilot Green Transport Fund of the Environmental Protection Department, “World Star” has been given a new life and become Hong Kong’s first diesel-electric powered eco-ferry bringing about substantial reduction in emission and higher propulsion efficiency. The renovated ferry features a spacious air-conditioned central cabin and café with luxury seating, tables and outside viewing decks.
There are two daily sailings from Tsim Sha Tsui at 11-00 and 17-00 and from Disneyland Resort Pier at 11-45 and 17-45. Journey time on the outward journey from Tsim Sha Tsui is about 45 minutes and the return journey which allows passengers excellent views of the Tsing Ma Bridge, Stonecutter's Bridge and Container Port takes about 70 minutes. Promotional round-trip fare until 21st December 2016 is HK$160 for adults and HK$140 for child age 3-12, senior age 65 and over, persons with disabilities and persons making a group purchase for 10 persons or more. Tickets are sold on a “first come – first served” basis on the day of departure at the Star Ferry Harbour Tour Ticket Counter at Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier Concourse. Payment by cash only in Hong Kong Dollars. No online booking facility is available. Ticket Counter is open from 10-30am to 8-45pm daily and tickets must be purchased at least 10 minutes before departure time. Ticket includes one snack and one drink. Passengers also have the option to purchase Round-trip plus One Day Disneyland Ticket or Round-trip plus Walt's Café Afternoon Tea/Lunch set packages.
"World Star" also operates a nightly "ICC Light Show and Symphony of Lights Harbour Cruise", departing Tsim Sha Tsui at 19-25.
For full details see;
Interior cabin of Star Ferry's "World Star"
ELECTRIC FERRIES (PILOT SCHEME)
The Government has earmarked HK$350 million to launch a pilot scheme for electric ferries (Pilot Scheme) and is preparing for testing the operation of electric ferries in four in-harbour ferry routes and will fully subsidise the relevant ferry operators for the construction of electric ferries and the associated charging facilities, as well as the operational, maintenance and repair expenditures incurred by the operation of the electric ferries during the 24-month trial period. Four ferry operators have planned to participate in the Pilot Scheme in the following four in-harbour ferry routes:
1. Central and Tsim Sha Tsui by The "Star" Ferry Company, Limited;
2. North Point and Hung Hom by the Sun Ferry Services Company Limited;
3. Sai Wan Ho and Kwun Tong by the Coral Sea Ferry Service Company Limited;
4. "Water Taxi" plying Kai Tak, Hung Hom, Tsim Sha Tsui, Central and West Kowloon by the Fortune Ferry Company Limited.
The Government has established an inter-departmental working group (IWG) to work out the details of the Pilot Scheme, oversee its progress and evaluate the performance of the electric ferries. The EPD has also engaged a consultant to design the electric ferries and the associated charging facilities, and assist the ferry operators to prepare technical specifications for issuing open tenders for the construction of electric ferries. In addition, the Government has set up an expert panel comprising a local naval architect and academics as well as the IWG members to assess the design proposals of electric ferries. The EPD and the consultant have been proactively discussing the details of the Pilot Scheme with ferry operators to understand their operational needs and requirements of the new electric ferries, and study the charging arrangements. So far, the consultant has worked out the conceptual designs of electric ferries and submitted them for discussion at the expert panel. Regarding the installation of charging facilities at existing ferry piers, given that the existing electricity supply at the ferry piers is not sufficient to meet the charging needs of the electric ferries, additional power supply and upgrading of the electrical systems at the piers are required. The power companies have proactively assisted and have agreed to increase the power supply to cater for the trial. The government has engaged an engineering consultant to work with the power companies and relevant government departments to prepare the engineering design of the charging facilities. Upon the completion of the design, the Government will invite tenders for the construction of charging facilities at the ferry piers to support the operation of the electric ferries in the future.
Based on progress as at mid-2021 it is anticipated that the design proposals for the electric ferries and associated charging facilities would be completed within this year. The ferry operators and the Government will be able to issue open tenders for the construction of electric ferries and the associated charging facilities respectively later this year. Taking into account the lead time to construct the electric ferries and the associated charging facilities it is anticipated that the Pilot Scheme would commence in 2023 tentatively.
During the 24-month trial operation, each ferry operator is required to commission a ship surveyor or maritime professional to collect the operational, environmental and financial data of the electric ferry and submit an assessment report to the expert panel after the completion of the trial. The expert panel will then examine the assessment report and evaluate the performance of the electric ferry in terms of environmental benefits, technical performance and cost effectiveness. Upon the satisfactory completion of the trial, the government will encourage the ferry operators to continue deploying the electric ferries to their ferry routes.
If the Pilot Scheme is successful, it will provide ferry operators an additional choice of green technologies for ferries. The Government welcomes interested party to apply for the operation of new ferry services. When assessing applications for new ferry services, the Government will consider all the factors, including the provision of existing public transport services, passenger demand, applicability of green technologies in ferries, availability of piers and supporting facilities, as well as the financial and operational viability.