In this paper, we study how maritime ferry industries should be regulated. This is a fundamental issue in so far as maritime transport between islands and mainland is a service of general interest. We argue that the policy design crucially depends on the goals the collectivity pursues (pure efficiency, fairness) as well as on the relevant industry structure (monopoly, oligopoly). We show that the regulator needs to prevent inefficient crowding out, whenever room exists for access of new providers to former monopolies. By properly allocating traffic across shippers, the regulated firm's budget constraint can then be relaxed. We subsequently shed light on the implications of adopting the territorial continuity principle to boost social fairness. We establish that the incumbent's public service obligations dump the entrant's incentives to provide connections in the low season; conversely, soft competition encourages the entrant to operate in the high season, when it pockets a net rent. As to customers, our model predicts that the islanders, whose consumption is partly subsidized by the non-residents, patronize the incumbent and that liberalization directly benefits the non-residents who switch to the entrant.
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