HKKF will keep its Lamma and Peng Chau routes in a new licence agreement starting from 1 April 2021

Incumbent ferry firms New World First Ferry (NWFF) and Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry (HKKF) have both won their respective outlying island ferry routes for another five years after an uncontested “open tender” by the Transport Department (TD).

NWFF will continue to operate the Central–Cheung Chau route; the Inter-islands routes between Peng Chau, Mui Wo, Chi Ma Wan and Cheung Chau; and the Central–Mui Wo route. HKKF will continue with Central–Peng Chau, Central–Yung Shue Wan and Central–Sok Kwu Wan ferry routes.

A ferry berths in Hong Kong, emitting clouds of black smoke

NWFF will keep its Lantau and Cheung Chau routes

Fares will go up on average 4.7% from 1 April 2021, when the new contracts become effective, while operators will be required to add additional morning or evening sailings according to passenger demand from that date.

The government says operators will be required to improve passenger facilities, including wifi, replacement of “benches and fans” and the “dissemination of real-time data on arrival/departure time and the number of remaining seats”. Such data will be available through apps and the government’s data portal

The licences of the six routes announced today were first granted in mid-2011 for a period of three years. The licences were subsequently extended twice (in 2014 and 2017), each for a period of three years, and will reach their maximum permitted ten years on 31 March 2021.

According to the government, NWWF and HKKF were the only bidders on their respective routes, after an open-tender was announced in April this year.

The government has been heavily subsidising the outlying island routes, and says operators have been “struggling to stay financially afloat”. The operators of the six major island routes would collectively make a loss of HK$700 million from 2021-2026 under current licence terms, says the government and, without the hefty subsidy, would need to raise ferry fares by around 40%. The government capped the fare increase for the latest licence at 5% and will increase subsidies accordingly.

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