Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hawaii Superferry Faces Waves in Court

A surfer catches a wave at Kakaako Waterfront Park as the Hawaii Superferry approaches Aloha Towers on June 30, 2007, in Honolulu. The $100 million Hawaii Superferry _ the first passenger ferry between the islands _ is making its maiden run with a rushed launch to Maui on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2007. Legal problems could quickly beach the giant catamaran like one of the whales that environmentalists fear it will run over.


The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 28, 2007; 1:29 AM

HONOLULU -- A state judge agreed Monday to temporarily block the first passenger-vehicle ferry service between the Hawaiian Islands from using Maui's Kahului Harbor, giving environmental groups a victory.

Protesters sought the temporary restraining order to halt the Hawaii Superferry from using the harbor until an environmental assessment is conducted. The request does not affect ports on Oahu or Kauai.

The environmentalists argued in a lawsuit that the ferry's plan to ply 400 miles of Hawaii waters each day endangers whales, threatens to spread invasive species and will worsen traffic and pollution.

Superferry officials have said the ship's water jet propulsion system means there are no exposed propellers to strike aquatic animals.

The order remains in effect until Sept. 6. On Wednesday, the judge will hear arguments on a request for a preliminary injunction.

Hawaii Superferry Inc. said the company was hopeful it would prevail at the hearing Wednesday and resume operations to Maui on Thursday.

The Superferry started trips on Sunday, two days ahead of schedule, after the state Supreme Court ruled last week that the state should have required an environmental assessment before the ferry launched. State transportation officials, noting that the court didn't explicitly say the ship couldn't run, allowed the service to start.

An attorney representing three environmental groups, Isaac Hall, said state law clearly says that a project cannot be launched and state land cannot be used until an environmental assessment is being prepared.

Before Sunday, the only way to travel among the islands where an estimated 1.3 million people live and tens of thousands of tourists arrive each day was by the local airlines.

The $95 million ship is built to carry more than 800 passengers and 200 cars. After Sept. 5, the fares will go up significantly: Round trips from Honolulu to Maui or Kauai, with taxes and a fuel surcharge, will cost more than $240 for one passenger and a car.

On the Net:

Hawaii Superferry: http://hawaiisuperferry.com/