Friday, August 18, 2017

Dawei-Kawthaung ferry suspended as roads improve

Express ferry services between two major towns in Tanintharyi Region have been forced to close as the region’s road network improves, rendering the service unnecessary, according to local operators.

The boats made their last journey in January after operating for nearly two decades, according to industry sources. Three companies – Ayeyarnaddy, Hifi Express and Fortune Express – had been running a regular service of 10 ferries since 1999.

Each company ran one daily ferry from Dawei to Myeik to Kawthaung, transporting between 100 and 200 passengers each day.

However, as the region’s road networks have improved, the demand for ferry services have fallen, said the manager of Hifi Express, who wanted to remain anonymous. New border gates with Thailand at Mawtaung and Htee Khee have also encouraged passengers to travel by road rather than sea.

“At the end of 2015 when the weather was not so good we still had passengers who wanted to take the ferry,” he said. “But this year, there has been no demand. We don’t know when we can start running the business again. In the meantime we have to pay the cost of staff and maintenance.”

The ferry, which previously left from Sin Phyu Pin village in Thayetchaung township, 8 miles from Dawei, would leave at 5am and reach Kawthaung at around 3pm, said local resident Ko Zaw. Three years ago one journey on the ferry cost K70,000 but the fees were cut to K40,000 three years ago, he said.

In the past, the service was particularly popular with people who wanted to migrate illegally into Thailand and Malaysia via Kawthaung, said local Dawei residents.

However, the new border gate at Htee Khee cut the travel time, distance and fees by nearly half for those travelling from Dawei, compared with the ferry trip, said the Hifi Express manager. The gate is four hours by bus from Dawei.

The route has become popular with migrant workers as it is possible to pass through the gate with a temporary passport, he said.