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|Headquarters||Honolulu, Hawaii, United States|
|Area served||Oahu, Maui|
|Headquarters||Honolulu, Hawaii, United States|
|Area served||Oahu, Maui|
The Hawaii Superferry was a Hawaii-based transportation company that provided passenger and vehicle transportation between Honolulu Harbor on the island of Oʻahu and Kahului Harbor on Maui. Legal issues over environmental impact statements and protests from residents of Maui and Kauaʻi temporarily delayed the implementation of service, but service between Oʻahu and Maui began in December 2007. The company had hoped to return service to Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauaʻi and additionally planned to eventually provide service to Kawaihae Harbor on the Big Island.
Ferry operations were suspended in March, 2009 after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that a state law allowing the Superferry to operate without a complete environmental impact statement was unconstitutional. The company has left the possibility of returning to service open if the state does an EIS and approves future voyages. In the meantime, they will be investigating other possible uses for the Alakai. On July 2, 2009 a Delaware Bankruptcy Court granted the company's motion to abandon both the Alakai and Huakai, ending all possibilities that the company might return to Hawaii; the ships were bought by the US Maritime Administration in 2010, and the US Navy has expressed interest in buying them from MARAD. Both vessels, now in the possession of the U.S. Maritime Administration, are docked in Norfolk, Virginia and are in transit to Mobile, Alabama, for "insurance considerations".
The vessel used by Hawaii Superferry was an aluminum-hulled catamaran with drive-on / drive-off vehicle capability or fast ferry service. It is designed and built in the United States by Austal USA, a division of Australia-based shipbuilder Austal. The vessel is powered by MTU Friedrichshafen engines using waterjet propulsion which the company claimed will minimize impact to marine mammals (but opponents disputed this statement). It is capable of transporting up to 866 passengers and 282 subcompact cars.
The first ship, the Alakai, arrived in Honolulu Harbor on June 30, 2007. The second ship, the Huakai, was scheduled for completion in 2009, but due to the economic slowdown and state court ruling halting service, the Huakai was put on hold and was later abandoned along with Alakai.
Private steamships and ferries were the sole way of traveling between the islands from the 19th century until the 1950s and returned twice since statehood, once in 1966 between Oahu, Maui and Big Island, and Seaflite which operated hydrofoils between the major islands in the mid-1970s. Currently there is passenger ferry service between Moloka'i and Maui, between Lana'i and Maui. Neither of these takes vehicles.
The concept of the Superferry was founded in 2001 and first announced by founders Timothy Dick, John Garibaldi, and Robert "Terry" White in September 2003 after more than two years of planning. Hawaii Superferry stated its plans to operate a daily service between the newly built interisland ferry terminal at Pier 19 in Honolulu Harbor to Kahului on Maui and Nawiliwili on Kauai, with later expansion of service to Kawaihae near Kona on the Big Island. The company claimed fares for a family trip to be similar to the equivalent airfare, car rental, and parking.
In January 2004, the company formed a partnership with Austal to build two high-speed catamarans. Construction on the first ship began in June 2004. Meanwhile, the company secured its first investors, including Maui Land & Pineapple Company and Grove Farm on Kauaʻi. and a MARAD loan guarantee of $140 million 
|This article's Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the article's neutral point of view of the subject. (November 2010)|
Generally, the issues surrounding the Hawaii Superferry can be summarized as:
The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled on August 23, 2007 that the state Department of Transportation had erred in not requiring an environmental impact assessment for harbor improvements at Kahului Harbor, reversing an earlier ruling in 2005 by Maui Circuit Court Judge Joseph Cardoza. Superferry then announced that it would accelerate its launch to August 26, 2007, two days earlier than its originally scheduled launch date.
Service began with inaugural $5 fares. The inaugural voyages were sold out. The voyage to Maui was smooth and uneventful with a few environmental protesters observing peacefully at Kahului Harbor. However, about a dozen protesters on surfboards blockaded the ferry at Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauaʻi. The Coast Guard cleared the ferry's path after 90 minutes. Upon docking, protesters confronted passengers, including Kauaʻi residents, and some vandalized cars. Several protesters were arrested.
On August 27, 2007, Judge Cardoza issued a temporary restraining order barring the Superferry from accessing Kahului Harbor, causing Maui service to be suspended. Meanwhile, the Superferry was forced to turn back from its second trip to Kauaʻi after protestors again blockaded the Nawiliwili Harbor resulting in several more arrests. Superferry passengers were forced to remain onboard for 9 hours, while Kauaʻi residents were denied the ability to board the ferry. The company subsequently suspended services to Kauaʻi.
The protesters' concerns were that a ferry of this size traveling at speeds of about 40 mph (64 km/h) could strike and kill whales during its voyages. Other concerns included the potential to import invasive species between islands, and the potential to bring drugs and homeless people to Kauaʻi.
In a meeting with State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa on September 14, 2007, the company stated that it may have to find another home for the ferry in order to pay operating expenses, repay debt, and provide return on the investments made. Describing their meeting, Hanabusa commented that they would have staying power for "a month—outside, a month and a half." Superferry officials, while declining to elaborate, did not dispute this.
On October 9, 2007 Maui Judge Joseph Cardoza ruled the ferry could not resume service while the state conducts an environmental impact assessment. Two days later Superferry CEO John Garibaldi announced that the company would lay off 249 employees. Fifty-nine workers remained on the job to handle administrative and operational duties. The maritime community was disturbed by the loss of jobs for U.S. mariners.
In mid October 2007, Governor Linda Lingle met with the leaders of the Hawaii State Legislature to propose a special legislative session to allow the ferry to operate while the state completed an environmental impact assessment. Senate and House leaders agreed. Governor Lingle called the Legislature into special session on October 24, 2007. In preparation for the session, legislators made trips to Kauaʻi, Maui, and The Big Island to get reactions. On Kauaʻi, the meeting was calm, but on Maui the meeting was more emotionally charged.
On Monday October 29, 2007 the State Senate approved a bill to allow "large capacity ferry vessels" to operate between ports in the Hawaiian Islands while an environmental statement is prepared.
On Wednesday November 14, 2007, Maui Court Judge Cardoza lifted the injunction banning the ferry from sailing to Kahului Harbor consistent with the new law. Hawaii Superferry's CEO John Garibaldi released this statement: "On behalf of Hawaii Superferry's family of employees, we are pleased with the judge's decision today. We are grateful for the support shown by the governor, legislature, and residents of Hawaii and look forward to commencing service soon." Superferry restarted service on December 14 beginning daily round trip voyages to Maui.
In December 2008, environmental groups and the company returned to court for an appeal of the previous ruling. On March 16, 2009 the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that allowing the Superferry to operate prior to completion of the environmental study was unconstitutional. The company immediately suspended service and laid off its 236 employees.
On May 30, 2009, two months after suspending service, Hawaii Superferry filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection. The company would then abandon the vessels ending all possibilities to return service.
On February 8, 2010 it was announced that state lawmakers have introduced the bill that would buy or lease both the Alakai and Huakai and possibly start a state-run ferry service. However the bill was killed two months later. The revival was resurfaced in July 2010 when former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann introduced a "10-point action plan to boost the state's economy if he is elected governor." Hannemann said that he is in talks with a group of investors who are interested in buying both Alakai and Huakai.
On March 21, 2011, the Hawaii State senate committee approved a planned proposal to establish a state-run ferry authority with the power to borrow money and purchase a high-speed ferry for interisland service. House Bill 1239, introduced by state Rep. Joe Souki of Maui, would set up the Hawaii State Ferry System and a special fund for its operation. However, there were mixed reaction as to how it will be structured and to how it will be run.