Endangered Star Ferry
by Ian Morley
Since its origins in 1888, the Star Ferry has been an icon of Hong Kong. With tens of thousands of people crossing Victoria Harbour every day, the ferry and its piers play a special role, with both tourists and locals, in the city's history and folklore. Now the icon is threatened by recent controversial developments.
On November 12, 2006, a new Star Ferry pier opened in the Central District. It has been met with mixed reviews because it is less accessible than the pier it replaces, and it presents a questionable image in postcolonial Hong Kong.
Initially known as the Kowloon Ferry Company, the Star Ferry provides an inexpensive yet essential transportation service for many Hong Kongers, connecting Kowloon with Central and other districts on Hong Kong Island across Victoria Harbour.
Such is the attractiveness of the Star Ferry that, even though the Cross-Harbour Tunnel has also connected Kowloon with Hong Kong Island since the 1970s, and the MTR (metro system) since the 1980s, ferries have still maintained their popularity. One reason is that the inexpensive ferry tickets are within the financial grasp of all in Hong Kong society.
Also, the Star Ferry service has traditionally docked in easily accessible locations. In Tsim Sha Shui (Kowloon), for example, taxis and buses run throughout the day up to the bus station and taxi stand near the ferry pier, connecting different districts of the New Territories with downtown Kowloon and, in turn, with Hong Kong Island. This accessibility is being threatened by the location of the new pier and the possibility of relocating nearby bus and taxi stops.
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Star Ferry crossing Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong.
Photo: Ian Morley
The existing Star Ferry pier in the Central District, soon to be demolished.
Photo: Ian Morley
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