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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 2, 2006

Superferry called poor fit for Kahului

Associated Press

KAHULUI, Maui The Kahului harbormaster says traffic and few facilities at the Maui pier will make for a rocky start for the Hawaii Superferry.

"People will ride it first for fun. Whether they come back the second time, I doubt it," said harbormaster Steve Pfister.

As Pfister spoke earlier this week, every berth at all three piers of the busy harbor were already full. But he says he wants to see the new interisland ferry system succeed and even drinks his morning coffee out of a Superferry mug he bought on the Internet.

The problem is that the already-crowded Pier 2, which is slated to be home to the ferries in 13 months, doesn't exactly have what one would expect of a standard transit station.

Current plans call for tents to be used as terminals. Portable toilets will stand in as restrooms. And there isn't yet any electricity at the end of the pier, which could complicate night landings.

Traffic jams starting in the morning and extending well into the afternoon also will be a likely byproduct of the ferry's arrivals and departures at the well-used pier on Maui, Pfister said.

"I really like Superferry," he said. "I also like 747s. But you can't land them at the West Maui airport. No matter how hard you try, it's not going to fit."

The ferry will be taking over one-fourth of the space occupied by shipper Young Brothers, which has said that it may be forced to stop delivering or shipping smaller loads out of the harbor as a result.

And with a barge extending up to 100 feet out into the harbor to load and unload vehicles from the ferries, the tight area for turning vessels in the harbor will become even smaller.

But Scott Ishikawa, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said it's very unlikely the spot for the ferries will be moved.

"We're already in design for the harbor improvements," he said.

And should the department fall behind in making the harbor improvements it has promised to Superferry, it could be forced to pay the company $18,000 per day.