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HK to Lose Star Ferry Pier Landmark
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Hong Kong bade farewell to the world-famous Star Ferry pier as the last boat departed from the historic structure to cross Victoria Harbor.

At midnight, the 48-year-old pier closed for the last time to make way for a six-lane bypass and a shopping center.

The pier, one of the territory's most famous icons standing amongst modern skyscrapers, will be moved 360 meters (1,200 feet) west to a new US$1.54-million terminal.

The much-loved pier, together with the adjacent Queen's Pier and the old clock tower, will turn to dust when the government tears them down next year.

A crowd of 1,500 watched the final sailing.

Hundreds of "mourners" had written messages on scraps of paper and pegged them at the ferry pier. Gilda Wan, a 25-year-old secretary, said: "I met my husband on the Star Ferry. It means a lot to us. It broke my heart when I was told it was to be scrapped."

The new three-story structure, designed according to the 1912 version of the terminal with an Edwardian style, will feature a public viewing deck, shops and a waterfront restaurant, with a roof-top bar also planned.

The service operator, the Star Ferry Company, hopes the new terminal will give passengers and travelers a new means of enjoying the harbor crossing, which in 1999 was named by the National Geographic of Traveler magazine as one of the "50 places of a lifetime."

"We hope that the new pier will provide not just a transport service but will also serve as a tourist attraction," said Frankie Yick, Star Ferry managing director.

Yick said he also hopes the 7,000 square-meter (75,000 square-feet) building will help draw more local passengers, beating competition from other modes of cross-harbor transport.

Although the ferry costs as little as 1.7 Hong Kong dollars (22 US cents) each journey and is by far the cheapest way to travel between Hong Kong Island and bustling Kowloon, passenger numbers have dropped by 60 percent to 53,000 a day since the cross-harbor tunnel was opened three decades ago.

Chan Ngai-kwong, who has taken the ferry to work every day for the last 10 years, said he will miss the old pier. But not all share in the nostalgia.

"Compared to the rest of Hong Kong, the pier looks quite run-down," said Des de Moor, a charity worker from London.

Although the clock face will be placed in a museum and its bell relocated to the new pier, architects and conservationists said the old pier and tower clock have important cultural value to Hong Kong and should be preserved.

 ( November 13, 2006)

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