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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, March 6, 2004

Interisland ferry service previewed

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Transportation Writer

The Spirit of Ontario, left, which arrived in Honolulu Harbor on Wednesday on its way to Rochester, N.Y., offers a glimpse of the kind of ferry service Islanders may have in the future. The vessel features several areas where passengers can relax, have refreshments or watch movies.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Terry White sees a time two years away when people will drive their car onto a sleek, high-speed ferry in Honolulu, watch a movie, eat a meal, shop, relax in style and, three hours later, get dropped off on Maui or Kaua'i, all for about half the price of an airline ticket.

OK, someone wanted to know yesterday, if it's that simple, why hasn't anyone done it before?

"Technology and timing," said White, chief operating officer of Hawaii Superferry, the company that plans to start regular passenger and vehicle service between all islands by late 2006.

"Nobody's gotten to this point before because the technology to do it has only become available in the last 10 years," said White, who once worked as a Coast Guard inspector on the SeaFlight ferry system that started and died here quickly in the 1970s. "These new large, high-tech ferries with motion-control systems can handle the rough seas like nothing before."

Hawaii Superferry officials yesterday showed off what they said could be a prototype for two ferries being built for interisland runs in Hawai'i, a semi-SWATH (small waterplane area, twin hull) type catamaran built in Australia.

The ship, Spirit of Ontario 1, is stopping at Hawai'i ports on its way from its shipyard to its new home port in Rochester, N.Y., where it will be used to shuttle passengers to and from Toronto.

Interisland option

Clayton Settell of Pacific Detroit Diesel-Allison says the ferry is driven by four diesel engines like the one behind him.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

The ship, which local officials say is about 20 percent smaller and not as comfortably outfitted as the ones being built for Hawai'i, looks like a hybrid of the Starship Enterprise, a Boeing 747 and the Norwegian Sun cruiseliner.

It has two movie theaters, a children's play area with padded jungle gym, satellite TV, a business computer center, three snack bars and lounges, a gift shop, large open windows, wide skylights above a central stairway and a variety of seating arrangements, from restaurant-type groupings around tables to aircraft-style armchairs.

"And our ships will be even bigger and better," said Tim Dick, Hawaii Superferry chairman. "We'll have all reclining seats, higher ceilings, wireless high-speed Internet access and a convenience store," he said.

In the planning stages for more than two years, the Hawai'i operation will be able to transport up to 900 passengers and 250 vehicles at a time, including tour buses and tanker trucks, moving them at 35 knots — about 40 miles per hour — between Honolulu and Maui or Kaua'i in about three hours. The trip to Kawaihae harbor on the Big Island will take four hours.

The projected costs are less than $100 for a round-trip passenger ticket, Dick said. Even when a car is transported, the costs will remain less than half of the money that a family would spend on airfare and car rental on a Neighbor Island, he said.

The ships, which cost an estimated $150 million to build, also will drastically reduce cargo costs for produce and flower growers, among others, and be able to transport an entire U.S. Army Stryker brigade between Hono-

lulu and its training ground on the Big Island in less than 48 hours, Dick said.

"Up to now, Hawai'i is the only state in the country where you can't travel to most places without an airline," he said.

"We think we'll be able to significantly lower the cost of living here for nearly everyone."

Popular design

The Spirit of Ontario 1 includes a first-class area plus two movie theaters, a business computing center and children's play area.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Similar catamaran-type ferries have come into use increasingly throughout the world, including Sweden, Denmark, Turkey and the Canary Islands. The Spirit of Ontario 1 will be the first one to be home-ported in the United States.

"It's a very big deal for us back home," said Sherry and Bob John, tourists from Rochester who just happened to be passing Honolulu Harbor yesterday when officials and reporters were getting their first look at the ship.

"I said that looks a lot like our ferry — and then I said, hey, that is our ferry," said Sherry John, who had been following progress of the ship's development for several years. "It's going to cut hours off the driving time to Toronto and is supposed to bring a lot more people back and forth."

Mike Makua, a Young Brothers worker patrolling Pier 19 on bicycle yesterday, said he was looking forward to taking the ferry to the Big Island, but was disappointed to find out that it will be landing in Kawaihae, far from his Hilo home.

"I've only got a bicycle, so it won't be that good for me after all," he said.

Lorne York, a self-described "old-timer" who helped develop a cargo ferry in Vancouver 25 years ago, came to the harbor yesterday to get an upclose look at the catamaran-type ferry, which is almost as long as football field and five stories high. The Hawai'i ships will be 340 feet long.

"There's definitely a place for it here, especially on the long runs. People will want to try it out," he said.

State Transportation Department officials announced yesterday that Hawaii Superferry has signed a lease for office space at the never-used new ferry terminal completed last year at Pier 19.

The DOT is planning extensive land-based changes at all harbors to accommodate the roll-on, roll-off operations of the ferries, but does not know yet how much the new facilities will cost, said Linden Joesting, deputy director for harbors.

"One of the biggest things will be providing security for the areas where the cars will wait," DOT Director Rod Haraga said.

"So far, everything we've heard from the public is positive. I think the Hawaii Superferry is going to hit it right on the head."

Reach Mike Leidemann at 525-5460 or mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com.

• • •

See it now

The Spirit of Ontario 1 will be available for public viewing. The event in Honolulu is by invitation only. Elsewhere, the public is invited free of charge.

Honolulu: Today, 6 to 8 p.m. Pier 9 at Aloha Tower.

Kaua‘i: Tomorrow: 3 to 5 p.m., Pier 1, NÅwiliwili Harbor.

Maui: Monday, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., Pier 3B, Kahului Harbor.

Big Island: Tuesday, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., Pier 3, Hilo Harbor.