Fri, Jan 18, 2019 - Page 12 News List

TLDC joining Brave Line’s investment in ferry services

PENGHU, EAST COAST:Two high-speed catamarans will more than halve the time of existing ferry services, with trips to Penghu to start first, in March or April

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Taiwan Land Development Corp (TLDC, 台灣土地開發) yesterday joined Brave Line Co’s (百麗航運) purchase of two high-speed catamaran ferries to provide services between Taiwan proper and Penghu County and between Yilan and Hualien counties, Brave Line announced yesterday.

The Rikulau and the Blue Magpie were designed by Australian shipbuilder Austal, which announced the commission in September 2017, and built in the Philippines; TLDC’s participation comes through owning a 30 percent stake in Brave Line.

Each vessel can carry up to 552 passengers.

The Rikulau would be able to make the trip between Chiayi County and Penghu in 70 minutes, or Taichung and Penghu in two hours, compared with the four hours that current ferry services take, said Brave Line chairman James Lan (藍俊昇), who also owns Wisdom Marine Group (慧洋海運集團), the nation’s largest dry bulk shipping company by fleet size, and the Pescadores Hotel (百世多麗花園酒店) in Makong.

The Blue Magpie is to sail between Yilan County’s Suao Township (蘇澳) and Hualien in 70 minutes, which is half the time of existing ferries, Brace Line said.

“The two ships will speed up sea travel in Taiwan, while offering passengers the greatest comfort and ease, as they come with state-of-the-art marine stabilization systems,” which allow for steady sailing even when waves are 3 to 4 meters high, he said.

The Rikulau cost US$15 million and the Blue Magpie US$16 million, and Brave Line is looking to recover its investment within five years, based on 180 trips per year, Lan said.

The Rikulau is scheduled to begin operations in March or April, sailing from Putai Port (布袋港) in Chiayi County or Taichung Port, Lan said.

The Blue Magpie is expected to begin service in May.

Fares would be on par with existing ferries, but shorter travel times would mean Brave Line would be able to offer more sailings and earn more revenue, Lan said.

Service could be extended to Kaohsiung and Penghu, if there is a demand, Lan said.

TLDC has sought to boost tourism in Hualien County, where the Taipei-based developer is building the mixed-use New Paradise (新天堂樂園) complex that is to ultimately include retail outlets, restaurants, movie theaters and sports and entertainment facilities.

The theaters opened last month and have proven as popular as the container-turned Starbucks outlet in the complex, TLDC said.

It is to add hotel rooms and apartments when the government completes the Suhua Highway improvement project, TLDC chairman Chiu Fu-sheng (邱復生) said.

Brave Line might seek listing on local bourses after it becomes profitable, Lan said.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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