Hong Kong has launched the first low-emission vessel on its Star Ferry line. The Morning Star, first launched in 1965, has been fitted with a diesel-electric hybrid engine, following a six-month, HK$8 million refit.
The vessel is powered by a hybrid system that utilises two diesel-powered main generators, which supply electricity to the propulsion engine. This low-emission solution replaces the traditional two-stroke marine diesel engine that the ferry used in the past.
A Star Ferry in the 1920s
The ‘green’ Morning Star is currently in daily service between Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui, and will later also be employed on the Central to Tsim Sha Tsui route.
Speaking at the launch ceremony in mid-July, Hong Kong’s environment secretary Wong Kam-sing said: “We are hopeful for Star Ferry’s pilot in converting the diesel engine of Morning Star … Such success will not only help improve the air quality of Victoria Harbour but also pave the way for the development of fully electric-powered ferries in Hong Kong.”
Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry pier [Credit: Baycrest via Wikicommons]
Hong Kong’s Star Ferry service has been shuttling passengers between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon for over 120 years, making it the city’s oldest form of public transport. In 2019, these classic green and white boats carried 18 million passengers on the scenic, 10-minute trip across Victoria Harbour. While a large number of trips nowadays are made for pleasure or tourism, many Hongkongers still use the ferry as a daily mode of transport.
Despite the ferry’s symbolic relationship with the city and its skyline, the fleet has been criticised for using two-stroke marine diesel engines, which chug black smoke, an acrid smell and heavy pollutants from a chimney stack directly into the air above the CBD.
Morning Star is the second in the fleet of eight Star Ferries to be converted – the other is World Star, which is used for a dedicated tourist service and was refitted three years ago.
There are now plans to convert another daily passenger vessel, Silver Star. The Star Ferry Company is also looking into the feasibility of launching a fully electric-powered ferry in future.