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Covid-19 Sinks Pattaya-Hua Hin Ferry

Pattaya Hua Hin Ferry Royal Passenger Line Bali Hai

The Pattaya-Hua Hin ferry survived summer storms, pier renovations and mechanical issues, but Covid-19 finally sunk the service.

Mayor Sonthaya Kunplome announced Aug. 10 that Royal Passenger Line Ltd. had requested that its contract for Pier 3 at the Bali Hai jetty not be renewed and that it was suspending its catamaran service to Prachuap Khiri Khan, probably forever.

The 15-billion-baht ferry project, which launched amid great fanfare in 2017, never reached either expectations or its potential and was plagued by shutdowns every year.

Royal Passenger Line originally said it would use four catamaran ferries based in Koh Larn that each could carry up to 150 people and travel at speeds up to 27 knots. A larger vessel with a 262-passenger capacity was used during peak periods.

Likewise, the two trips a day between Bali Hai Pier Pattaya and Sapan Pla Pier in Hua Hin ended up being one trip each way.

Fares were reasonable at just 1,200 baht at launch, but the service struggled to fill the boat consistently.

Rough weather canceled the ferry’s very first journey and was a problem throughout its three years of operation. Low number of tourists, summer storms and high seas prompted Royal Passenger Line to discontinue service between May and November of 2018 and 2019.

What the ferry couldn’t overcome was the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Royal Passenger Line suspended service in June 2020 and never restarted it. The company continued to pay rent on its Bali Hai terminal with no income.

The third wing of Bali Hai Pier will now be returned to Pattaya, but will not be usable until alterations made by Royal Passenger Line are reversed, Sonthaya said.

“They will have to fix some structures at the port to what it originally looked like before their operations. There were some renovations done that the company changed, and some structures are not to our standards,” the mayor said.

“Once this is completed, (the company) can finally return the port to Pattaya City properly, where it will likely be operated as a normal boat pier.”

Sonthaya said there are no plans being considered to replace or restart the ferry service.

This story was written for the Pattaya Mail, a Bangkok Herald partner.