Hawaii Superferry service to Maui resumes Dec. 1
By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor
By Christie Wilson
The Hawaii Superferry will resume service to Maui on Dec. 1 with $29 special one-way fares, the company announced yesterday. However, no date has been set for sailings to and from Kaua'i, officials said.
The announcement came just days after a Circuit Court judge on Maui lifted an injunction barring the 866-passenger ferry from using Kahului Harbor and after a bruising legal and legislative fight to keep the company operating in the Islands.
"We appreciate the support we've received from everyone who shares the vision of uniting our islands and families by sea," said Hawaii Superferry CEO John Garibaldi in a statement.
Ferry opponents yesterday said they were disappointed in the company's decision to resume service to Maui before a required environmental assessment is done. They predicted some type of legal protest when the first sailings occur.
"I would expect some demonstrations. I know some people who have been talking about going down (to the harbor) and I know they are not happy," said Judith Michaels, acting president of the citizens group Maui Tomorrow, one of three groups that had pushed for an environmental review before the ferry resumed operations.
The organization is particularly concerned about the potential for ferry collisions with humpback whales and the spread of invasive species, Michaels said.
Maui County Mayor Charmaine Tavares asked people to respect the law and each other.
"Our police department is working in conjunction with state and federal law enforcement officials and I have absolute faith in their capabilities and preparedness," the mayor said in a statement. "It is still my hope that our residents will be able to remain civil, safe and out of harm's way.
"Public safety is to be taken seriously. The welfare and protection of our citizens and visitors are crucial no matter what the issue or situation at hand. From the public safety perspective, federal and state agencies will be at the forefront of the situation. I think we can also rely on and call upon people to respect the law and each other."
The Superferry's Maui manager Duane Kim was at a job fair in Kahului last night trying to recruit a half-dozen more employees to add to the local staff of 36.
"It feels great. I've been getting a lot of phone calls from employees about when they can come back to work now that the Dec. 1 date has been set," he said. "We're moving forward and bringing employees back and starting to get the terminal ready. It's really been a long road but we're happy."
The company said a date for commencing service to and from Kaua'i has not been determined.
"We have already begun community outreach efforts on Kaua'i," Garibaldi's statement said. "We will make our decision about when we commence our Kaua'i service once that process is completed."
The Superferry was forced to halt service to Maui after the state Supreme Court ruled that the state needed to conduct a study of ferry-related environmental impacts.
The court sided with environmentalists who argued the ferry could harm whales and could carry invasive plant and animal species between islands. The state Legislature revised state law in a special session that paved the way for the ferry to resume service.
TRAFFIC HEARING MONDAY
Although Hawaii Superferry won court approval Wednesday to resume service, still unresolved is the question of traffic control at Kahului Harbor.
A hearing is scheduled for Monday in a separate court case over the ferry's traffic impacts. Maui Circuit Judge Joel August has required that only two vehicles per minute be allowed to exit the ferry site on the north end of Pu'unene Avenue near one of the island's busiest intersections.
The restriction caused an hourlong back-up of disembarking vehicles when the Alakai last visited Kahului Harbor on Aug. 27.
The start-up of service on Dec. 1 likely will add to Maui's traffic congestion, Michaels said.
"Unless (Judge August) keeps the traffic mitigation, there will be a real problem," Michaels said.
The Maui Tomorrow board will meet next week to consider whether to pursue further court appeals.
August has indicated he is willing to be flexible and drop the rule and allow off-duty police offices or other trained personnel to manage the traffic.
Other mitigation ordered by the judge includes reconfiguring the Pu'unene Avenue intersection and making space available for ferry customers at the Kahului Airport overflow parking lot, about two miles from the harbor.
The ferry can carry 866 passengers and 282 cars, but company officials estimate an average of 400 passengers and 110 vehicles per trip. At Kahului Harbor, 267 vehicles a day are expected to travel through the ferry site, either loading or unloading from the vessel or dropping off or picking up passengers.
Reach Christie Wilson at email@example.com.