Ferry fare increase to be approved soon

Friday, June 3, 2011
Issue 1323, Page 6
Word count: 755
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The four ferry operator’s recent applications to raise fares will be given the green light as early as this month but they may not get the 10 to 25 percent increase as proposed, said director of the Maritime Administration (CP) Susana Wong Soi Man yesterday.

Speaking to reporters after attending the plenary meeting at the Legislative Assembly, Wong said the assessment process is in the final stage and the CP will try to “have the applications approved as soon as possible”. She later confirmed that it should be completed within the month.

Far East Hydrofoil, Hong Kong Macao Hydrofoil, Shun Tak-China Travel Ship Management and New World First Ferry (Macau) have applied to the CP between March and April this year to increase their ticket prices by 10 to 25 percent.

They operate services between Macau and Hong Kong, the Hong Kong International Airport and Shenzhen.

Asked whether the proposed increase is justified, Wong said the government “understands the reasons expressed by the ferry operators. They haven’t adjusted the fares for seven years and the soaring fuel prices are truly causing headaches for the transport industry”.

However, she pointed out that part of the increase is “too high”.

“We hope that the final increase will be accepted by the public and can also satisfy the ferry operators despite it no being what they asked for,” the CP chief added.

In addition, Wong told reporters that the administration has requested the companies retain the current MOP 10 discount offer for Macau identity card holders after the applications are approved.

Yet, she admitted that it is only a proposal from the government and “there is nothing we can do” if the operators do not offer concessions to Macau residents.

Shun Tak – China Travel Ship Management Ltd. has been offering the discount to Macau identity card holders while New World First Ferry (Macau) has not.

According to the CP director, Macau residents only accounted for “slightly over 1 percent” of total ferry passengers, meaning that “giving discounts to Macau people will not cause a significant impact to their profits”.

Meanwhile, in response to some operator proposals to impose fuel surcharges on ferry trips, Wong said the “fare adjustment mechanism is a new thing for the maritime passenger transport industry especially in the neighbouring regions”, adding that the Macau Government will study the feasibility but it will “take time and require careful consideration”.

Concession to cease

On the other hand, in response to lawmaker Kwan Tsui Hang’s oral interpellation regarding the development of the local maritime passenger transport industry at the legislature, Wong disclosed that the Macau Government is set to take back full control of the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal after the current concession contract with Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau (STDM) expires on December 20, 2011.

“In order to support the needs of diversified development of the industry and the implementation of the ‘Marine Transport’ administrative regulation, the SAR Government decided to not renew the concession contract after it expires, and also to learn from the experience of the Taipa [temporary] ferry terminal to be responsible for the direct management,” the CP chief announced.

In addition, she said the administration is in talks with the public works department in the hope to enhance the supporting facilities and the space of the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal.

Apart from reducing commercial activities and advertisements unrelated to visitors, she said a baggage carousel may be built and part of the third floor of the terminal will be reserved to accommodate stranded passengers when sailings are disrupted by bad weather.

Nevertheless, Wong admitted that the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge in the future will impact the maritime passenger transport industry, but just how much of an impact she couldn’t be certain of just yet.

The Taipa Ferry Terminal, which is due for completion in 2013, will be larger in scale than the one in the outer harbour, she added.

As a result, Wong stressed that the CP will not spend a great deal of public funds to improve the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal facilities.

The Transport Bureau however, is considering building a car park near the terminal to ease the traffic in the surrounding area, she disclosed.

Furthermore, the CP chief denied claims that the administration was giving certain ferry operators priority in the approval of sailing times and routes. She explained that a company’s services are “mainly determined by its business scale, the number of boats it owns, qualified human resources and also its operating capacity”.


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