The recent discussion on the locations of the Hung Hom ferry piers here http://gwulo.com/node/14541#comment-23088, here http://gwulo.com/node/14541#comment-23090 and here http://gwulo.com/node/14541#comment-23091 highlight an apparent lack of consolidated maps or information showing the changes to ferry pier locations and routes over the years. Inevitably over time our memories fade as to where and when familiar things from our youth were located.
I don’t recall seeing any books or publications on the history of the widespread ferry operations within the harbour area. Although there is at least one covering the Macau and China high-speed ferries published in Chinese.
If not already done, the location mapping of piers and routes over the years could be a worthwhile research project for a student interested in Hong Kong’s transportation systems and their development. While some older maps show piers and ferry routes, usually there are no start/stop dates for the services available. Prior to 1996 the government used to publish all available transport routes, fares and timetables in a single book format on an annual basis. This included all the ferry routes and was available from government publications shops. Later it was left to the individual operators to distribute their own timetables or post them on the internet.
From the 1960s, very large reclamations started spreading out around the harbour and a number of long-standing ferry piers had to be moved. Prior to the Cross Harbour Tunnel opening and the MTR coming into operation, the Hong Kong & Yaumati Ferry Co had many now long forgotten routes. Not only from Central to Jordon Road in the 1990s, but earlier to Tai Kok Tsui, Shamshuipo, Cheung Sha Wan, Tsuen Wan, Tsing Yi town etc. Plus several eastern harbour routes starting from Wanchai, North Point etc. Most of these routes gradually ceased operating as the MTR and better bus services evolved.
In the 1960s a very cheap summer afternoon could be spent hopping on and off the non-air conditioned ferries cooling down in the breeze while travelling the length of the harbour with its ever changing scenery of cargo shipping surrounded by their jostling attendant junks loading/unloading freight and goods, large passenger liners and warships of all nations could be seen interspersed with sailing junks and ferries. It was always a very busy scene.
And of course HYF also had longer routes to the outlying islands and inter-island services. The longest of these I recall was the Central to Tai O (Lantau Island) route using older vessels which took about three hours calling in at various isolated piers on the way. Inevitably fast modern air-conditioned vessels were later put on the route.
Also there were various ferry services which were officially timetabled to remote piers in and around Tolo Harbour. Miss the return trip and you could be stuck for the night.
The Star Ferry Co operated routes no long serviced these days, always from separate but adjacent piers to those of the HYF ferries for some reason. Why not shared?
In the 1980s the Hover-Ferries came to the fore operating on distant routes such as to Tuen Mun where bus services to the new town were regularly disrupted by traffic problems on the Tuen Mun Highway which was forever under construction or modification or closed by accidents. At Tuen Mun the temporary termini for the conventional and Hover-Ferries were also routinely relocated due to expanding reclamation work until finally settling at permanent piers adjacent to Butterfly Estate.
The harbour and outlying island ferry services are now a shadow of what they used to be within living memory, mainly overtaken by improved road and rail infrastructure developments. It was even proposed not too long ago to run fast commuter ferry services to and from Central to Repulse Bay, but since China Motor Bus Co ceased operating its decrepit vehicles frequent nose to tail air conditioned ‘super–buses’ now ply the route.