A frustrated ferry skipper aborted the first scheduled arrival at the new Pak Kok Ferry Pier yesterday, speeding away to the old embarkation point after several attempts to engage new moorings.
Sources on the new $70 million ferry pier said there had been tensions between the ferry firm and the government over the design of the pier, which is the first small pier in Hong Kong to offer an accessible ramp for wheelchair, stroller and trolley users.
But ferry executive Bery Chan, Business Development and Compliance Manager for Tsui Wah Ferry Services, downplayed the issue, saying there was a necessary compromise between accessibility for passengers and flexibility for boat captains. New ferries coming in 2026, sources at the firm said, would be better suited for using the accessibility pier, while Chan said the government had wanted to build something which lasted 50 years.
Using accessible ramps to bring passengers to the boarding points means there’s only two choices of boarding height at the pier’s sideways dock. Unlike large piers such as the Star Ferry pier, there’s no adjustable gangplank system on the pier itself and the Kai To-style ferries serving the pier have no adjustable gangplank aboard, other than a small portable gangplank which can only cope with a small height difference between pier and ship.
This means when tides are unfavourable, embarking side-on to the older ferries would not be straightforward and too difficult for some captains to manage, sources at the pier said.
A promotional photo sent out by Development Bureau showed the ferry deck perfectly aligned with the new boarding platform – but a source at the ferry firm said the tides make this but an occasional occurrence. “It will rarely be in the right place!” he said, pointing out that the tide shifted the boat height around one or two metres depending on the time of day and the season.
The ferry arrival from Aberdeen, packed with journalists and ferry enthusiasts keen to mark the first pier berthing, saw the captain struggling to find an acceptable berth for the ship alongside the lower boarding area and eventually giving up, surging away in a cloud of diesel smoke and swinging around the pier to the old boarding area. Passengers then disembarked from the front, as has been the Pak Kok tradition for decades.
Development Secretary Bernadette Linn said in her weekly blog the practice of “burying the ship head-on” at simple village berths could easily be affected by rough seas and posed safety risks for passengers when boarding and disembarking.
The new pier was the first of 23 new-style wharves planned for construction throughout the city. Seven are already under construction and two more will begin construction before the end of the year.
Villagers at Lamma Island’s “north point” celebrated the opening of the pier with a whole roast pig and firecrackers. The pier, which will serve around 20 boats per day, features a water dispenser and heavy-duty USB charging points, as well as a structure designed to reduce waves.
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