Hong Kong’s sailing icon, Star Ferry, has accumulated a loss of HK$70 million since 2019. It now needs to borrow money to maintain its daily operations, as its revenue can no longer cover its employees’ salaries.
The company has faced fierce competition from MTR and bus services, plus the shock of the fifth wave of COVID-19 in Hong Kong. Star Ferry’s ridership in 2021 dropped significantly compared with pre-pandemic levels.
The debt of Star Ferry has exceeded its value of assets. “The loss in the past 30 months was nearly as much as it can make in 30 years,” David Chow, general manager of the Star Ferry, said, “perhaps we cannot repay the debt even after 2047.”
The 134-year history makes Star Ferry one of the city’s most old transport modes, standing as an iconic tourist attraction and a collective memory of Hong Kongers. The Star Ferry’s history dates to 1888, when Parsee merchant Dorabjee Naorojee Mithaiwala founded the Kowloon Ferry Company.
The Star Ferry operates routes connecting Kowloon and Hong Kong island, enabling the passenger to travel while enjoying the beautiful view of Victoria Harbour.
The company announced the closure of the lower deck services of ferries from Central and Tsim Sha Tsui starting from February 28th and has adjusted its service schedule on March 10th.
For services between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, the Ferry delayed the first liner from 6.30 a.m. to 7 a.m. and brought forward the last liner’s suspension from 11.30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Full-day departures were reduced to 10 ~12 minutes between each.
For routes between Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui, the last Ferry was advanced from 10:50 p.m. to 8:50 p.m. for departing from Tsim Sha Tsui, and the last Ferry from Wan Chai was advanced from 11 p.m. to 9 p.m. The frequency of Full-day service will be reduced to 20-22 minutes.
Where is the Future of Star Ferry?
The South China Morning Post has cooperated with The Sandbox, a blockchain gaming platform, to launch a metaverse experience and offer a visual tour of the Star Berry, which is open to the public for free.
“The metaverse is a digital world where real-world concepts of value and scarcity can provably exist.”, said Gary Liu, CEO of South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. The metaverse experience is built on extensive visual illustrations, data, and infographics, enabling the players to move around in the virtual Star Ferry, interact with the game characters, and feel the atmosphere of the pier and its development in history.
As Liu said, the metaverse visual services aim to connect with the new generation and digital natives. The post also invested in non-fungible tokens(NFT) – a blockchain data patent that claims the ownership of a digital invention. NFT is considered as a driver of the future metaverse economy.
Metaverse adoption may open a new page in Star Ferry’s business. Though the current situation is worrying, we hope Star Ferry can survive and continue to be a beautiful scenery in our life and the digital world.