January 07, 2009 09:56
Experts have expressed doubt about the government's plan to run 5,000 t-class passenger ships along the Seoul-Incheon canal and a ferry terminal in Yongsan that are to be built, connecting Seoul to Chinese ports.
A 5,000 t ferry is huge compared to the pleasure boats now plying the Han River, which are 300 to 500 tons. Such ships are 120 m long and 20 m wide and can accommodate up to 600 passengers, but it seems unrealistic that they would run international routes. Most passenger ships currently traveling between Incheon and Chinese ports weigh more than 10,000 tons.
Other problems are passenger safety and navigation time. At present, it takes about 13 hours for a passenger ship to reach a Chinese port from Incheon. More than 80 percent of passengers are small traders who use the ferries because they are cheap. Adding the canal to Seoul, the journey would take at least 15 hours.
Experts said this could only work if there are special tourism programs connected with attractions in the coastal regions. Seong Eun-hee, a tourism professor at Dongseo University in Busan, said, "It wouldn't be easy for ordinary tourists to travel between Seoul and Chinese ports by passenger ship, unless there are attractive passenger boat services like in Hong Kong, which permits casino gambling in international waters."
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