Yangon – The Yangon Region Transport Authority (YRTA) on Tuesday launched its ferry service between Yangon and the remote Cocokyun Township islands in the Andaman Sea.
The ferry service is mainly intended for social development and government staff working on Coco Island, Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein said at the launching ceremony.
“Flights are costly and unaffordable. So we are providing water transport. The six-day round trip will cost 20 million kyats (US$13,600), which will be paid from YRTA funds,” the chief minister said.
But non-islanders and foreigners are not allowed to use the service because of the islands’ security role.
“As it is an important island for Myanmar, if its security is breached, it will have an impact,” said the chief minister.
The boat takes two days to reach Cocokyun. It will dock at the island for two days and then return to Yangon, the YRTA said.
The ferry service is currently free for passengers with meals provided. The YRTA secretary, U Hla Aung, said a private company was operating the ferry service under a contract with the authority. He declined to name the company.
The ship will mainly transport islanders, civil servants and civilians working to develop the island, said U Hla Aung.
“For the time being, we have fixed freight charges at 20,000 kyats [$14] per ton. But we will later set a fair rate in consultation with the government,” he said.
A total of 38 islanders, cargo loaders and crew caught the ferry on Wednesday.
Previously, Myanma Five Star Shipping Line operated the Yangon-Cocokyun ferry, but it abandoned the loss-making service, merchant Daw Myint Myint Than, who used to live on Coco Island, told The Irrawaddy.
Myanma Five Star charged 20,000 to 40,000 kyats per head and 1,000 kyats ($0.68) for 40 kg of cargo.
Yangon Region lawmaker U Aung Naing, who represents Cocokyun Township, said the Myanmar Navy provided transport for islanders before the YRTA service.
The township has a population of more than 2,000, the majority of whom are members of the armed forces and government staff.
“I am glad that the ferry service is provided. This ship is more convenient for cargo loading than the Myanma Five Star ferry. The freight charge is low at 2,000 kyats per ton. And for the time being, passengers can take the ferry for free,” Cocokyun resident U Hla Tun told The Irrawaddy.
The YRTA said it would run the service each month, preferably in the first or second week. The ship is a 700-ton capacity craft and a 3,500-ton capacity vessel would be used in the rainy season, according to the authority.TOP IMAGE: The government-funded Yangon-Cocokyun ferry service launched on Jan. 21, 2020. / Htet Wai / The Irrawaddy