Ferry's Maui relaunch a success despite some protestSTORY SUMMARY »
High seas and head winds are expected again today when the Hawaii Superferry returns to Maui after what officials described as a successful resumption of service.
Nauseating seas and sign-waving protesters greeted passengers yesterday when service began again after months of delays.
"We're good to go," said Superferry Chief Executive Officer John Garibaldi.
With signs saying, "Gov't 4 $ale," "Shame on You," "Abuse of Power" and "Environment Over Profits," between 200 and 300 protesters met the ship in Kahului.
But police reported no arrests, and Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares said the protesters showed admirable civility. "I'm grateful for everyone's efforts to comply with the law," she said.
Toni Carvalho, who held a sign saying, "Aloha Superferry, Welcome to Maui," said the vessel provides an important alternative to air travel.
"I believe in change," Carvalho said. "Maui needs to move forward."
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Aloha for the Alakai
Sitting inside the Hawaii Superferry on its way back to Honolulu yesterday, Maui resident Kimo Mawae remembered a few months ago when he was "anti-ferry."
But the 52-year-old carpenter is also looking for work on Oahu, and he brought his car jam-packed with his tools and clothes.
"So much is said about the negative regarding the issue," Mawae said. "But I will be the happy ending you'll never read about."
Mawae was among hundreds of riders aboard the Superferry's round trip between Oahu and Maui yesterday. The riders ranged from tourists and moving residents to contractors, businessmen and even protesters from Kauai.
The three-hour return trip to Honolulu at 11 a.m. carried about 170 passengers and 50 vehicles, about a fifth of the vessel Alakai's capacity of 866 passengers and 282 vehicles. About 190 riders and 60 cars were aboard when the vessel pulled away from Pier 19 in Honolulu Harbor for Kahului at about 6:40 a.m. yesterday.
Superferry Chief Executive Officer John Garibaldi said slightly fewer passengers were expected today. But about 200 passengers have booked passage each way over the weekend.
"We see good growth happening day over day," he said.
After all the delays, people were wondering whether the ferry really was going to start service, Garibaldi said, and that also affected the number of trips sold.
"It was a very significant event for us to launch," he said. "We're good to go."
Yesterday's return trip also was much smoother sailing than the passage to Maui through the rough Molokai Channel when several people aboard were seasick.
"It's the roughest I've been on the boat," Garibaldi said of the Oahu-to-Maui route.
Yesterday's relaunch is the latest chapter in the Superferry's months-long, stop-and-go journey.
Stormy weather had earlier damaged the docking area in Kahului Harbor and delayed the planned restart of the service for several extra days.
The ferry originally was set to start the islands' first car and passenger service between Honolulu and both Maui and Kauai in August, but it was delayed after protesters on Kauai and lawsuits on both islands intervened to stop it, pending a full environmental assessment.
The state had cleared the way for the $300 million ferry service to operate without a report of its impact on the ocean and land environment, but the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that decision was in error.
After Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza on Maui followed the high court ruling with a restraining order against the ferry, the Legislature and Gov. Linda Lingle stepped in to allow the Superferry to operate while the review is conducted.
Superferry critics say the new interisland service will spread invasive species among the islands, cause traffic tie-ups and endanger humpback whales. Superferry officials say they have taken steps to alleviate any problems.
Service to Kauai, meanwhile, had been stopped by protesters in the water and on the docks of Nawiliwili Harbor after one trip.
Superferry officials have yet to announce a restart date for Kauai service. Company officials had said the Superferry lost about $650,000 a week as the vessel sat idle since August.
Despite the loss, Garibaldi said he feels confident about the company's ability to recoup the loss.
"Our investors are very committed to this whole project," Garibaldi said. "They take a long-term perspective on this. ... People are now seeing us operate, and we're just looking toward the future."
Mark Gossiaux was sold on the Superferry idea since its inception. He owns Mag Fencing of Maui and hopes the Superferry will help him expand on Oahu.
"I have job-specific drills, and if I were to have to buy them or rent them in Oahu, it wouldn't be cost-effective," Gossiaux said. "Now I have three trucks, and 10 guys in my crew, so I'll be able to bring them all for the next job."
Gossiaux said he also has a big contract on Kauai late next year and hopes service to the Garden Isle will resume by then.
Tommy Hulihee rode both trips to and from Maui. As equipment coordinator for Royal Contracting Co., he was researching future trips. He said he wanted to see the carport space, how vehicles were tied down and how fast the loading went.
"The largest piece we need to move, an excavator, will fit," Hulihee said. "And three hours compared to three days in a barge, you can't beat that. It's strictly economics. It's beautiful."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Boat's protesters create a clamor in Kahului
KAHULUI » Kahului Harbor became ground zero for protests yesterday as the Hawaii Superferry relaunched its Oahu-Maui service for the first time in 412 months.
With signs saying, "Gov't 4 $ale," "Shame on You," "Abuse of Power" and "Environment Over Profits," more than 80 people demonstrated along North Puunene Avenue as the vehicles left the harbor parking lot.
The number of demonstrators at the intersection of North Puunene and Kaahumanu avenues grew to between 200 to 300 by late morning, according to the county. Some entered Kahului Harbor on surfboards and in canoes.
At least three protesters traveled on the Superferry, unfurling a banner as the vessel docked. The banner had the state motto in Hawaiian ending with a question mark, or, in English, "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness?"
Said Hale Mawae, one of the banner holders from Kauai, "We don't want the Superferry to repeal environmental laws and rip off our resources."
Several protesters criticized Gov. Linda Lingle and lawmakers for initially exempting the Superferry from an environmental impact statement.
"I am outraged," said Hannah Bernard, holding a sign saying, "Impeach Lingle."
Scores of law enforcement officers, including a helicopter crew and 14 state conservation enforcement agents, patrolled the water and surrounding harbor areas.
Police said there were no arrests.
Leslie Kuloloio said he was upset that the state closed the Kahului Harbor jetty for much of the morning, shutting down the use of a small boat launching ramp to local fishermen.
"That kind of hurt me," Kuloloio said.
Randy Awo, the state conservation enforcement chief on Maui, said the closing of the jetty was temporary and could continue for 10 days.
"We will be assessing the situation each day to determine if we can reduce or eliminate our presence," Awo said.
The Coast Guard said it had no immediate plans to change the safety zone around the Superferry, including the buoy areas in Kahului Harbor.
Kuloloio said he has never seen so many law enforcement officers assembled on Maui, and he said it was excessive.
Maui County Mayor Charmaine Tavares said yesterday's demonstration was an example of the island's ability to deal with contentiousness while remaining civil.
"This has been quite a challenge to our island, and I'm grateful for everyone's efforts to comply with the law and respect our law enforcement personnel who had to deal with a difficult situation," Tavares said.
Maui Tomorrow Executive Director Irene Bowie said she was pleased with the number of people who showed up at the demonstration, especially because it took place on a workday. Bowie said she expects a larger protest tomorrow morning by her group and several others.
Maui protester Leona Nomura, who brought her grandchildren with her, said Maui needs to slow down and protect its resources and rural lifestyle.
"I don't want to be Oahu," she said. "Everything is not about money."