Orchid Island ferry service abruptly shutters

By Kuan-lin Liu, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — HAWA (恆春興蘭海運公司), a passenger ship company serving the Hengchun Township-Orchid Island route, shut down operations with no prior warning, according to local media reports on Sunday.

The company reportedly sent text messages to its clients Saturday night stating that it was “suspending its operations indefinitely.” The firm did not respond to inquiries from reporters or customers, according to local media.

Currently, both the company’s phone and website are inaccessible.

The sudden closure has sparked ire among customers who had previously booked tickets.

A woman, surnamed Yang, told local media that she and her colleagues had ordered tickets to travel from Kenting’s Hengchun to Orchid Island for Apr. 22, as well as return tickets for Apr. 25. In total, the party of seven paid NT$17,000, with round-trip tickets costing NT$2430 per person.

The company’s text message reportedly stated that due to a lack of funding, HAWA would only be able to refund customers 20 percent of the amount they prepaid for their tickets. Government Officials Respond Yu Chien-hsun (余建勳) of the South Maritime Affairs Center explained that any ship that needs to suspend its services must report to its supervising government agency, something that HAWA has failed to do.

The center noted that it has yet to receive a report from the company but said that this could be due to the fact that these past two days had been the weekend.

According to Yu, there are two other companies that can transport passengers back to where they need to go, so at the moment, the unforeseen suspension of HAWA services did not pose a problem.

The center said it would keep a close watch on how HAWA handles the refunds, which it is reportedly going to do today. Legal Ramifications Pingtung County Government’s consumer protection officer Wu Chin-yi (吳清宜) stressed that if a company could not fulfill its contractual duty, it must issue full refunds.

Wu said that thus far the government had not received a formal public complaint, so the government would look into the reasons as to why HAWA closed and the number of people affected.

The government would aid consumers in filing a group lawsuit if the company continued to be silent on the matter, Wu added.