Star Ferry

The "Star" Ferry Company Ltd.
Ferry services across Victoria Harbour
Founded 1888
Founder 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 as of 2010.
A Star Ferry in the 1920s.
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.
A man at the front of a large boat throws a rope to another man on a nearby pier wearing a blue sailor uniform who is holding a long pole with a hook at the rear to catch it
Crew using billhook to moor ferry at Central pier, a method in use since the 19th century

The Star Ferry, or The "Star" Ferry Company, is a passenger ferry service operator and tourist attraction in Hong Kong.[1] 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)[2] 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.[3][4]


Before the steam ferry was first 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.[5]

In July 1873, an attempt was made to run steam ferries between Hong Kong and Kowloon. This was stopped at the request of the British consul in Canton, who feared it would enable visits to gambling houses in Kowloon.[5] It is thought that a service to the public was established in the mid-to-late 1870s, after the cession of Kowloon to the British in 1860.[6]

The company was founded by Parsee merchant Dorabjee Naorojee Mithaiwala as the "Kowloon Ferry Company" in 1888. Naorojee bought Smith's boat,[5] and later acquired the steam vessels Morning Star and Evening Star from a Mr Buxoo.[6] 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.[5] He incorporated the business into the "Star Ferry Co Ltd" in 1898, prior to his retirement to India.[6] 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!".

At the time regular service was initiated, ships were moored by having a sailor on the vessel toss the rope to another on the pier, who would then catch it with a long billhook. This is still done today.[7]

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.[5]

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.[8] 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.[9]

In 1924 the Yaumati Ferry operated the route to Kowloon in a duopoly.[10] In 1933 the Star Ferry made history by building the Electric Star, the first diesel electric passenger ferry of its kind.[5]

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 Airport.[5] 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.[5]

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.[9]

Public protests

Main article: Hong Kong 1966 riots

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.[6]

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 24 June 2012[11]):

Passengers may use Octopus or tokens to pay for the ride. Tokens are available in the vending machines at the piers. Direct payment by coins at turnstile is also accepted but no change will be provided.

The Tsim Sha Tsui – Central route does not accept cycles, but the Tsim Sha Tsui – Wan Chai route accepts cycles for an extra charge of HK$13, except during the evening peak hour from Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui.[12]

Opening soon

Star Ferry has announced to provide sightseeing service between Tsim Sha Tsui and Disneyland Resort Pier, which has been emptied for 11 years since its open. This route consists of 2 departures and the round trip fare is $180. Passengers can enjoy views of Tsing Ma Bridge during the 45 journey on a luxury ferry World Star.


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,[14] together with a tug.[15]

Over the years, the fleet has included:

Star Ferry Fleet
Name IMO Reg Year
Builder  Seats   Notes  Image
(green and white livery)
(other colors)
Morning Star
1871 English-built steamboat app 100 The first "Star" Ferry,[15] served from 1871 to 1898
Evening Star
1888 English-built steamboat 100 The second "Star" Ferry,[15] served from 1888 to 1902
Rising Star
1890 100 Served from 1890 to 1902
Guiding Star
1896 100 Served from 1896 to 1904
Morning Star
Served from 1898 to 1903
Northern Star
1900 Served from 1900 to 1959
Southern Star c. 1900
Polar Star
1901 Served from 1901 to 1927
Morning Star
Served from 1904 to 1928
Electric Star
1933 Served from 1933 to 1968, sunk in 1943 (and later recovered) and converted to diesel boat in 1948
Golden Star
1928 Served from 1928 to 1968, sunk in 1943 (and later recovered) and converted to diesel boat in 1953
Celestial Star
8951360 A2071 1956-2011 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576 Currently the oldest vessel in service
Radiant Star
1956-1971[16] Likely Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard Featured in the film The World of Suzie Wong
Meridian Star
5232725 A2671 1958 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576 Modified in 2012 as back-up vessel for Star Ferry Harbour Tour; subsequently re-modified to ordinary ferry standard in 2013
Solar Star
5333335 A2681 1958 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576
Northern Star
8951372 A2971 1959 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576
Night Star
8891091 A3136 1963 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576 Named for original Kowloon Ferry Company's Night Star
Day Star
8891120 A4041 1964 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576
Shining Star
8891118 A3841 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
8891132 A2961 1964 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576
Morning Star
8891144 A2801 1965 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576 Named for original Kowloon Ferry Company's Morning Star
Silver Star
8891156 A4241 1965 Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyard 576
Golden Star
8951384 A5153 1989-2011 Wang Tak Engineering & Shipbuilding Ltd 762
World Star
8890968 A5243 1989-2011 Wang Tak Engineering & Shipbuilding Ltd 762
Glowing Star
Hong Kong Shipyard 288 ex-British Army vessel rented by Star Ferry between 2001 and 2005
Kowloon Tugboat
Pacific Princess 8624527 1971 Bought from Australia as Temeraire II, and in fleet from 1988 to 1994 as Lady Star (后星號); subsequently modified to corporate yacht of Kowloon Wharf Group


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 was moved from its old pier next to City Hall to the new location outside International Finance Centre, passenger numbers have fallen drastically to mainly tourists and a small number of commuters. 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 stopped operating these routes and the relevant piers at Hung Hom Ferry Pier on 31 March 2011.[13][18]


The Star Ferry appears 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.

Several brief scenes in the 1988 TV miniseries Noble House are set aboard the ferry. It also appears in the French films Les Anges gardiens (1995) and La Moustache (2005).

See also

Further reading


  1. DeWolf, Christopher "9 Hong Kong tourist traps -- for better or worse" CNN Go. 27 October 2010. Retrieved 2012-03-03
  2. Lack of bids dooms Hung Hom ferry lines, SCMP, 15 Jan 2011
  3. SATW Society of American Travel Writers: SATW's Top Ten Ferry Rides
  4. The Star Ferry Company Limited: The “Star” Ferry Ranks First in the World’s "Top 10 Most Exciting Ferry Rides”
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Eric Cavaliero, Star of the harbour, The Standard, 6 February 1997
  6. 1 2 3 4 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
  7. Chen, Piera (13 August 2010). "24 Hours in Hong Kong". Lonely Planet. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  8. Steven Ribet and Amy Tse, Making the connection, The Standard, 1 September 1999
  9. 1 2 Richard Frost, History floats aboard Star ferries, The Standard, 1 May 1998
  10. 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
  13. 1 2 3 4 Final Sailings or the End of the Star Ferry Services from Hung Hom
  14. "Company profile" Star Ferry Co. Retrieved 2012-0-3-04
  15. 1 2 3 "History". The "Star" Ferry Co. Ltd. 2001. Archived from the original on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 28 October 2007.
  16. Gwulo
  17. 1 2 "Goodbye, Wan Chai (East) Star Ferry Pier".
  18. "Cancellation of Ferry Services between Hunghom and Central/Wanchai" Star Ferry Co. 15 March 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-30
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