The Shanghai city traffic authorities ordered Didi Kuaidi’s new pilot boating service be scrapped on Thursday after only one day in operation, amid concerns about safety.
The service, called Didi Dachuan, or literally ‘Honk Honk Grab a Boat’, was rolled out as a partnership between Didi and Sea-Stella, a Chinese yacht club. Trips were made in three double-deck yachts owned and operated by Sea-Stella with each yacht holding up to 10 passengers. A one-way ride cost around 100 RMB. Didi said that although there were only 30 seats available, nearly 1000 people signed up for the service online.
The service set off from Qinhuangdao Pier and stopped at Lujiazui Pier. The triangular journey across the Huangpu River served working professionals in the Lujiazui financial districts and tourists looking to do some sightseeing along the banks of the Huangpu.
Ms. Wang told the Shanghai Morning Post that her daily commute via metro and bus usually takes 45 minutes one way. Taking a boat would cut her commute time by at least half. The fares Didi is asking for will prove prohibitive however. “If I am gonna take one of their boats to work, the price oughta be lower. I won’t consider it unless it costs below 20 RMB one way.”
The person in charge of the matter at Didi told the newspaper that there will be significant adjustments if its ferry service is to hit the mass market. “We may use a larger and less expensive boat and increase ferry frequency to lower costs.”
“But the regulation stipulates a 10-person maximum capacity for our boat, which is truly not enough. We don’t have a specific timeline for the full launch of the service.”
Didi Kuaidi, China’s largest ride-hailing service, has just recently obtained approval from the Shanghai government for its pilot private-car service in the city.
Traffic authorities say to ensure the protection of all stakeholders, service providers – in this case, Didi – must obtain proper licenses and pass safety assessments in order to operate legally. To address cross-river traffic congestion, a water-taxi transit system along the Huangpu River is now being planned and is expected to launch by the end of the year.
Didi rival, Uber launched a boat-hailing service in Istanbul, the capital city of Turkey, back in June. Uber also runs a helicopter-hailing service in New York and Los Angeles in the US., Melbourne in Australia, Cape Town in South Africa, and was reported to have tested the service in Shanghai in April.