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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Maui-Moloka'i ferry service delayed

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau

The launch date of the Moloka'i-to-Maui ferry has been pushed back to the end of this month because of a blown engine on the newly acquired 149-passenger vessel.

Dave Jung, chief executive of Sea Link of Hawai'i, said the Moloka'i Princess is running smoothly again after a $15,000 engine overhaul and is awaiting its final Coast Guard inspection.

The company was conducting speed trials between the islands when the engine started losing coolant, he said. Upon closer inspection, a number of cracks were found in the engine.

"We're lucky we caught it before the engine was totally destroyed,'' Jung said, adding that a faulty reassembly may have occurred in the engine's last overhaul. "The good part is that it actually happened when there were no people on board. If we were in operation, it would have caused us to shut down for two weeks.''

It was the second major delay for the start of the ferry service. In February, bad weather in Seattle delayed refitting and launching of the 100-foot ship, a former fishing and tour vessel from San Francisco.

The new service is expected to provide a welcome economic boost to an island with the state's highest unemployment rate.

The previous Moloka'i ferry, also operated by Jung, shut down in 1996 after a $300,000 annual state contract was canceled by Gov. Ben Cayetano for budgetary reasons. Jung said the economy is stronger now and it's time to start up without a government subsidy.

Sea Link plans daily round-trip service Monday through Saturday. The charge for Moloka'i commuters is expected to be $15 for a round trip. Others will pay $40 each way, $20 for children.

The ferry will take about an hour and 15 minutes to make the Moloka'i-Lahaina crossing and will dock overnight at Kaunakakai, Jung said.