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Jet ferry to debut for sightseeing trips around southwest Japan World Heritage island

This Nov. 24, 2020 photo shows JR Kyushu Jet Ferry's Queen Beetle in Fukuoka's Hakata Ward. (Mainichi/Munehisa Ishida)

FUKUOKA -- A new jet ferry dubbed the "Queen Beetle" will soon be zipping tourists on sightseeing jaunts around Okinoshima island, a World Heritage site in southwest Japan's Fukuoka Prefecture, maritime transport operator JR Kyushu Jet Ferry Inc. announced on March 10.

    The ferry was originally commissioned to carry passengers between Japan and South Korea, but the the sea route has been suspended since March 2020 under coronavirus pandemic travel restrictions, and the "Queen Beetle" has been languishing in port since its completion last autumn.

    As it is registered in Panama, diverting the ferry for use on domestic routes was restricted. However, Japan's transport ministry has given JR Kyushu Jet Ferry special permission to run the vessel in local waters to promote tourism, as the company is suffering severely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Starting on March 20, and then on the 21st, 27th and 28th, the ferry will be used for 3 1/2-hour-long tours to view Okinoshima island. Parent company JR Kyushu and travel agency H.I.S. Co. are selling packaged tours starting from 12,000 yen (about $110) per adult. Up to 250 people can join each tour, half the ship's 500-person capacity, to prevent infections. The operator initially aimed to start the tours in January, but they were postponed due to the second coronavirus state of emergency.

    The Queen Beetle's hull is painted in red, recalling luxury cruise ships. The company will continue to organize domestic sightseeing tours on the vessel while awaiting operations on the Japan-South Korea route to resume.

    (Japanese original by Munehisa Ishida, Kyushu News Department)

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