Star Ferry

Star Ferry
The "Star" Ferry Company Ltd.
Type Ferry services across Victoria Harbour
Founded 1888
Founder(s) Dorabjee Naorojee Mithaiwala
Headquarters Hong Kong
Revenue HK$72m (2006)
Star Ferry
The ship Meridian Star
Traditional Chinese 天星小輪
Star Ferry routes.
A Star Ferry carries passengers across Victoria Harbour. This particular one is painted with an advertisement that promotes Hong Kong as Asia's World City.

The Star Ferry, or The "Star" Ferry Company, is a passenger ferry service operator in Hong Kong. Its principal routes carry passengers across Victoria Harbour, between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. It was founded in 1888 as the Kowloon Ferry Company, adopting its present name in 1898.

The fleet of twelve ferries currently operates two routes (four prior to April 1, 2011)[1] across the harbour, carrying over 70,000 passengers a day, or 26 million a year. Even though the harbour is crossed by railway and road tunnels, the Star Ferry continues to provide an inexpensive mode of harbour crossing. The company's main route runs between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui.

It has been rated first in the “Top 10 Most Exciting Ferry Rides” poll by the Society of American Travel Writers (“SATW”) in February 2009.[2][3]



Before the steam ferry was created, people would cross the harbour in sampans. In 1870, a man named Grant Smith brought a twin-screw wooden-hulled boat from England and started running it across the harbour at irregular intervals.[4]

In July 1873, an attempt was made to run steam ferries between Hong Kong and Kowloon. This was stopped at the time at the request of the British consul in Canton.[4]

The company was founded by Parsee merchant Dorabjee Naorojee Mithaiwala as the "Kowloon Ferry Company" in 1888. Naorojee bought Smith's boat,[4] and later acquired the steam vessels Morning Star and Evening Star from a Mr Buxoo.[5] It is thought that a regular service to the public was established in the mid-to-late 1870s, after the cession of Kowloon to the British in 1860.[5] The popularity of this means of transport enabled him to increase his fleet to four vessels within 10 years: the Morning Star, Evening Star, Rising Star and Guiding Star. Each boat had a capacity of 100 passengers, and the boats averaged 147 crossings each day.[4] He incorporated the business into the "Star Ferry Co Ltd" in 1898, prior to his retirement to India.[5] The company name was inspired by his love of Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem "Crossing the Bar", of which the first line reads "Sunset and evening star, and one clear call for me!".

On his retirement in 1898, Naorojee sold the company to The Hongkong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown Company Limited, at that time owned by Jardine, Matheson & Co. and Sir Paul Chater.[4]

A pier constructed on the western end of Salisbury Road opened in 1906, but was destroyed by a typhoon in September 1906. In the early 1950s, construction of the present twin-piered terminal commenced on both sides of Victoria Harbour, designed to handle 55 million passenger trips a year.[6] The structure was completed in 1957, concurrent with the Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier built on the island side.

At the turn of the century, Hong Kong currency and Canton currency were both accepted as legal tender in Hong Kong. In the autumn of 1912, following a devaluation, the Star Ferry caused a controversy by insisting, together with the tramways, that payment had to be made in Hong Kong currency only. Canton coinage would no longer be accepted.[7]

In 1924 the Yaumati Ferry operated the route to Kowloon in a duopoly.[8] In 1933 the Star Ferry made history by building the Electric Star, the first diesel electric passenger ferry of its kind.[4]

By 1941, the company had six vessels. During the Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong, the competing Yaumati Ferry was allowed to continue, while the Japanese commandeered the Star Ferry for their own purposes. The Golden Star and the Meridian Star were used to transport prisoners of war from Sham Shui Po to Kai Tak.[4] In 1943, the Golden Star was bombed and sunk in the Canton River by the Americans, and the Electric Star was sunk in the harbour. After the war, the ferries were recovered and returned to service.[4]

Until the opening of the Cross Harbour Tunnel in 1972, the Star Ferry remained the main means of public transportation between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon side.

The Star Ferry operates on a franchise from the Government. It was last renewed in March 1998, the year of its centenary.[7]

Public protests

In 1966, a fare increase of 5 cents (or 25%) of the ferry was a political milestone, as it caused a 27 year-old student to go on hunger strike in protest at the Edinburgh Place terminal. His arrest sparked the 1966 Hong Kong Riots.[5]

On 11 November 2006, the end of an era was marked when the third generation pier in Central, the Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier, ended its mission, along with the big clock tower. The pier was demolished to make way for reclamation, amidst great controversy and important protests.



An adult Star Ferry token

The Star Ferry operates the following cross-harbour routes (The prices are effective from 1 January 2010):

  • Central to Tsim Sha Tsui. For lower deck, it costs HK$2.0 on Mondays to Fridays; HK$2.4 on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. For upper deck, HK$2.5 on Mondays to Fridays; HK$3.0 on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays
  • Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui for HK$2.5 on Mondays to Fridays; HK$3.0 on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays
  • Harbour Tour: a tourist cruise, making an indirect, circular route to all the stops, namely Tsim Sha Tsui, Central, Wan Chai, and Hung Hom.

Passengers may use Octopus, or tokens to pay for the ride. Tokens are available in the vending machines at the piers. Coins are also accepted but no change will be provided.

Bicycles (up to 6) are accepted on the lower deck of most routes, for $13.0, but not between 5-6pm. The Tsim Sha Tsui – Central route does not accept cycles, but the Tsim Sha Tsui – Wan Chai route accepts cycles at no extra charge.


  • Central to Hung Hom for HK$6.3, terminated effective 1 April 2011.
  • Wan Chai to Hung Hom for HK$6.3, terminated effective 1 April 2011.

Charter and hire

The Star Ferry "Golden Star' is available for daily charter, for up to 300 people, having been refurbished for cruises and functions, with tables, larger sightseeing windows, an air-conditioned area, and a public address and music system.


There are currently 9 diesel-electric ferries in the fleet[9], together with a tug.[10]

Over the years, the fleet has included:

Star Ferry Fleet
 Name   Year Built   Builder   Seats   Notes 
Morning Star (曉星號) 1888 English built steamboat app 100 The first "Star" Ferry[10]
Night/Evening Star 1888 English built steamboat 100 The second "Star" Ferry[10]
Northern Star c. 1900 Sunk 1941
Southern Star c. 1900
Polar Star c. 1901
Rising Star c. 1901 100
Guiding Star c. 1901 100
Electric Star 1933 Diesel boat; Sunk 1941
Golden Star 1933? Diesel boat; sunk in Canton River by American forces 1943
Celestial Star (天星號) 1956 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576 currently the oldest vessel in service
Meridian Star (午星號) 1958 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576
Solar Star (日星號) 1958 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576
Northern Star (北星號) 1959 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576
Night Star (夜星號) 1963 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576 named for original Kowloon Ferry Company's Night Star
Day Star (晨星號) 1964 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576
Shining Star (輝星號) 1964 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576 now used for the Star Ferry Harbour Tour (top sections were opened up); reproduction of 3rd generation ferries c. 1920s
Twinkling Star (熒星號) 1964 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576
Morning Star (曉星號) 1965 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576 named for original Kowloon Ferry Company's Morning Star
Silver Star (銀星號) 1965 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576
Golden Star (金星號) 1989 Wang Tak Engineering & Shipbuilding Ltd 762 IMO number: 8951384
World Star (世星號) 1989 Wang Tak Engineering & Shipbuilding Ltd 762
Glowing Star (耀星號) Hong Kong Shipyard 288 ex-British Army vessel rented by Star Ferry between 2001 and 2005
Kowloon tug boat


The Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier for Star Ferry
The façade of the fourth-generation Star Ferry Pier in Central, Hong Kong

Financial problems

Since the Central Star Ferry Pier has been moved from its old pier next to City Hall to the new location outside International Finance Centre, the number of people using the Star Ferry to cross the harbour has fallen drastically, nowadays only tourists and only a few commuters use the system. This has meant the Star Ferry company has lost many millions of dollars since the relocation. Therefore it decided not to re-tender for the loss-making Hung Hom-Central and Hung Hom-Wan Chai routes and will stop operating these routes and the relevant piers at Hung Hom Ferry Pier on 31 March 2011.[11]


The Star Ferry makes a "star turn" in the 1960 film The World of Suzie Wong. In the beginning of the film, Robert Lomax (played by William Holden) disembarks from the SS President Wilson (an old American President Lines transpacific passenger vessel) and takes the Star Ferry to Hong Kong island, and on the ferry meets Suzie Wong (played by Nancy Kwan), who scorns his attentions. The ferry (Radiant Star) itself is completely recognisable, and the layout of the pier where William Holden debarks in Kowloon is familiar to any denizen of Tsim Sha Tsui, minus the giant shopping malls constructed since the film was shot.

Several brief scenes in the TV miniseries Noble House are set aboard the ferry .

Image gallery

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ Lack of bids dooms Hung Hom ferry lines, SCMP, 15 Jan 2011
  2. ^ SATW Society of American Travel Writers: SATW's Top Ten Ferry Rides
  3. ^ The Star Ferry Company Limited: The “Star” Ferry Ranks First in the World’s "Top 10 Most Exciting Ferry Rides”
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Eric Cavaliero, Star of the harbour, The Standard, 6 February 1997
  5. ^ a b c d EIA: A survey report of Historical Buildings and Structures within the Project Area of the Central Reclamation Phase III, Chan Sui San Peter for the HK Government, February 2001
  6. ^ Steven Ribet and Amy Tse, Making the connection, The Standard, 1 September 1999
  7. ^ a b Richard Frost, History floats aboard Star ferries, The Standard, 1 May 1998
  8. ^ Wiltshire, Trea. [First published 1987] (republished & reduced2003). Old Hong Kong – Volume One. Central, Hong Kong: Text Form Asia books Ltd. Page 71. ISBN Volume One 962-7283-59-2
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b c "History". The "Star" Ferry Co. Ltd.. 2001. Retrieved 28 October 2007. 
  11. ^ 'Cancellation of Ferry Services between Hunghom and Central / Wanchai', Star Ferry website, 15 March 2011. Retrieved on 30 March 2011.

External links

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