Central Ferry Piers 4 May 2011

Some Observations on the Planned Redevelopment of Central Ferry Piers 4, 5 & 6

Prepared for briefing for Local Residents by CEDD, with the assistance of the Island District Office at the Lamma Island (North) Rural Committee Office

The Central ferry piers are valuable sites, yet their potential is woefully under-utilised. Situated on Hong Kong’s harbourfront, they are currently the gateway to island destinations promoted as tourist attractions by the Hong Kong Tourist Board. They are also the daily commuter thoroughfare for thousands of island residents.

Currently the ferry piers are unattractive. Though a few kiosks now provide refreshments, there is nowhere to sit and enjoy these in comfort. In the case of Pier 4, grey plastic seats are provided, but there is little to look at, either in terms of harbour view or internal decoration of the pier. The toilets are a disgrace.

Living Lamma, therefore, welcomes investment in the upgrading of the Central ferry piers. The purpose of this development should be to improve the piers, both as a gateway to the islands and as a place people will go to for recreational or retail purposes. In the case of pier 4, it should allow for the promotion of Lamma to visitors, as well as be a good place to spend some time between ferries, with:

Improved Basic Facilities

  • Decent toilets and baby changing facilities
  • Attractive seating, perhaps including a children’s play area, with harbour views and sufficient shade

Improved Promotion of Lamma Island

  • Community notice boards for residents
  • Tourist information. Lamma has archeological history dating back 6,000 years, rich local heritage, unique ecology and interesting recent history, which makes the island one of the most culturally diverse places in the world, yet there is nothing to explain this to visitors.
  • Flexible exhibition space for the island community. Lamma is home to many talented artists and photographers, yet there is nowhere for them to display their work. Equally, the ferry company could help support efforts to improve our environment by providing space for exhibits to educate the public on this issue.

 

Improved Commercial Space

  • For retail, bars, cafes and restaurants.
  • For indoor recreational/sports facilities, or large indoor areas where children (and adults) can go to escape the heat or the rain. A play barn, ice skating rink or swimming pool are some ideas that have been put forward. Lamma currently has no public facilities of this sort and has very little space on which to develop it. Our children currently have to pass through the ferry pier on their way to enjoy swimming, skating and other activities. Having these at the pier would be preferable. Such facilities would also attract people from all over Hong Kong.
  • Flexible public open space. This could be used by street performers, occasional craft markets, or just seating, but would be designed to attract people to come to the pier.

 

Improved Design

  • The design should aim to maximize the appeal of the pier, making it attractive and comfortable for people to use. Architects and landscape designers with a successful track record of developing pier areas should be responsible for the design.

Constraints

There are some considerable obstacles to optimizing the potential of the redevelopment of the Central ferry piers 4, 5 & 6. Some of these, such as the dirty smoke that bellows out of some ferries and which would blow across outdoor seating areas, have been pointed out by CEDD at the public forums. However, we believe the major problems are (i) the way in which the tender system for ferries is structured and (ii) the design of neighbouring piers along the harbourfront.

  1. The Tender System
  2. The current tender system is very short-term. It is difficult for ferry companies to achieve economies of scale. There is little opportunity for them to cross-subsidise routes and no ability to alter routes to meet demand.

The stated aim of the redevelopment of the piers is to: “Further enhance the long-term financial viability of the ferry-services for outlying islands,” by providing the companies with the means to increase revenue through renting pier space.

However, because of the tender process, the way in which this can be achieved is very limited. There can be no thematic approach to design (for example, with one pier being developed for recreational facilities, another for dining and another for open space) as this would potentially put the ferry companies on unequal footing. The tender period is only 3 years, which would presumably deter private business from investing in the creation of public facilities or a more long-term nature.

Living Lamma has written a letter to the Financial Secretary and Submitted a Paper to the Transport Department outlining these problems. These have been attached below for reference.

  1. Neighbouring Piers

Hong Kong should have an integrated, attractive harbourfront. However, the “disneyfied” design of Piers 7 & 8 has drawn widespread criticism and has not succeeded in creating an area that is attractive to the public.

How then should the redesign of Piers 4, 5 & 6 proceed? It is unlikely that similar architecture would be welcomed by the public, yet alternative designs may result in a disjointed harbourfront that may be equally unappealing.

Being on the waterfront, the piers should reflect natural elements and be attractive for visitors. Hong Kong has proven itself adept at creating soulless, concreted areas with metal fencing. Often the design has very little to do with the way in which people actually want to use the place and does not reflect the challenges of Hong Kong’s climate, a lack of shade being one example. The government’s use of standard designs and standard materials does not always provide the best design outcome. We hope that the redesign of the Central ferry piers will offer something new and in so doing provide opportunities for commerce, better services for customers and an attractive part of the harbourfront that Hong Kong can be proud of.