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Passenger service decline causes business change

Date Posted: 2006-04-28

Passenger ship service is declining, and a local company is ready to stop sailing island waters.

Ryukyu Kaiun, which operates the passenger ship Wakanatsu Okinawa, is tossing in the towel September 1st after watching its passenger service numbers drop drastically. RKK sails between Naha, Miyako, Ishigaki, Kagoshima and Hakata.

RKK President Eijin Higa says people are turning to airplanes as the preferred travel method, particularly with airfares becoming so inexpensive. That wasn’t the case in 1950, when his ships were full on runs from Naha to Kobe, Naha to Miyako, Naha to Tokyo and Naha to Keelung, Taiwan. More than 350,000 passengers used RKK services in 1975, but that number has declined to fewer than 10,000 a year.

Higa says the passenger business has triggered deficits to RKK’s financial bottom line, but says everything will work out for the company. The cargo business is strong, and the ship will be converted this fall to a cargo carrier. High says the demand for more and larger cargo ships, should boost RKK’s profitability.

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