World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Hawaii Superferry

Hawaii Superferry
Industry Ferry
Founded 2003
Defunct 2009
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.[1]

Ferry operations were suspended in March, 2009 after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that a state law allowing the Superferry to operate without a second complete environmental impact statement was unconstitutional.[2] The company went bankrupt as a result of these actions preventing service in Hawaii.[3] 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;[4] the ships were bought by the US Maritime Administration in 2010, and the US Navy has expressed interest in buying them from MARAD.[5] 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".[6]

The Huakai docked at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.

Both craft have since been purchased by the United States Navy for $25M, a small fraction of their original $180M cost. [7] and are now sitting idle at The Navy Yard, Philadephia, Pennsylvania.


  • Vessels 1
  • History 2
    • Controversy 2.1
    • Inaugural voyage 2.2
    • Suspension of service 2.3
    • Special legislative session 2.4
    • Restarting service 2.5
    • Re-suspension of service 2.6
    • Bankruptcy 2.7
    • Revival Attempts 2.8
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


The Alakai docking in Honolulu Harbor

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 the world's largest fast-ferry builder, Australia-based shipbuilder Austal. The vessel is powered by environmentally clean MTU Friedrichshafen engines running on ultra-low sulfur diesel using waterjet propulsion which the company claimed will minimize impact to marine mammals. It was capable of transporting up to 866 passengers and 282 subcompact cars.

The first ship, the Alakai, arrived in Honolulu Harbor on June 30, 2007.[8] The second ship, the Huakai, was scheduled for completion in 2009, but due to state court ruling halting service, the Huakai was abandoned along with Alakai.[4]


An aerial view of the Alakai at Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauaʻi during her Open House on August 19, 2007

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, first with vehicle ferries in 1959-1960s between Oahu, Maui and Big Island aboard which legendary surfer Eddie Aikau moved with his family from Maui to Oahu. and Seaflite which operated fast 50 knot hydrofoils between the major islands in the mid-1970s.[9] Currently there is passenger ferry service between Lana'i and Maui.

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.[10]

In January 2004, the company formed a partnership with Austal to build two high-speed catamarans.[11] Construction on the first ship began in June 2004. Meanwhile, the company secured its first investors, including Maui Land & Pineapple Company[12] and Grove Farm on Kauaʻi.[13] and a MARAD loan guarantee of $140 million [14]


Generally, the issues surrounding the Hawaii Superferry can be summarized as:

  • Procedural concerns - The Hawai'i State Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Lingle illegally exempted the Hawaii Superferry from an EIS and later ruled that the special law exempting it was unconstitutional.[15]
  • Environmental concerns - These can generally be divided into concerns for marine life (primarily due to the speed of travel, which, although slower than Seaflite ferries which operated without incident in the 1970s, critics cited as unnecessarily high and dangerous to whales, dolphins, turtles and other animals) and concern for the environmental impacts threatened by the virtually unrestricted interisland transport of vehicles, particularly by O'ahu residents engaged in recreational activities. Interisland introduction of invasive species was also specific concern.
  • Militarization - It is pointed out that the Superferry's Chairman, John F. Lehman, is a former U.S. Navy secretary whose expertise is in the investment in companies with marine, aerospace or defense applications. [16]
  • Traffic Congestion - Due to the size of the state and lack of roads and other improvements on the outer islands, traffic expanding to these areas is a concern although not significantly different than visitors renting cars on those islands.

Inaugural voyage

The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled on August 23, 2007 that the state Department of Transportation had erred in not requiring a second environmental impact assessment for harbor improvements at Kahului Harbor, reversing an earlier ruling in 2005 by Maui Circuit Court Judge Joseph Cardoza.[17] Superferry then announced that it would accelerate its launch to August 26, 2007, two days earlier than its originally scheduled launch date.[18]

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.[19] Upon docking, protesters confronted passengers, including Kauaʻi residents, and some vandalized cars. Several protesters were arrested.[20][21][22][23]

Suspension of service

On August 27, 2007, Judge Cardoza issued a temporary restraining order barring the Superferry from accessing Kahului Harbor, causing Maui service to be suspended.[24] 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 on board for 9 hours, while Kauaʻi residents were denied the ability to board the ferry. The company subsequently suspended services to Kauaʻi.[25]

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 despite this never occurring during the years the faster (50 mph) Seaflite interisland ferries operated. Other concerns included the potential to import invasive species between islands, and the potential to bring drugs and homeless people to Kauaʻi although it is unclear whether such risk was any different from the interisland airlines. [26]

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.[27]

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.[28]

Special legislative session

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.[29] 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.[30]

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.[31]

The House passed the bill on October 31 on a vote of 39-11.[32] Governor Lingle signed the bill into law on November 6, 2007.[33]

Restarting service

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."[34] Superferry restarted daily round trip service to Maui on December 14.[35]

Re-suspension of service

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.[36] The company immediately suspended service and laid off its 236 employees.[2][37]


On May 30, 2009, two months after suspending service, Hawaii Superferry filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection.[38][39] The company would then abandon the vessels ending all possibilities to return service.[4]

Revival Attempts

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.[40] However the bill was killed two months later.[41] 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.[42][43]

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.[44]

See also


  1. ^ Wilson, Christie (2009-01-09). "Study reveals ups, downs of ferry-related harbor projects".  
  2. ^ a b Hawaii Supreme Court Rules Superferry Legislation Unconstitutional
  3. ^ Hawaii Superferry to Leave Hawaii
  4. ^ a b c Dicus, Howard (2009-07-01). "Hawaii Superferry abandons ship, and other bankruptcies in the news". Howzit Howard. Honolulu, HI, USA:  
  5. ^ "Hawaii Superferry’s Bankruptcy = US Navy Opportunity". Retrieved 2013-09-13. 
  6. ^ 2011, Ferries from bankrupt Hawaii company land in Norfolk
  7. ^ US Navy Buys Hawaii Ferries
  8. ^ "Superferry!".  
  9. ^ Cataluna, Lee (2005-12-23). "Nothing Smooth On Seaflite".  
  10. ^ "Next exit, Kahului".  
  11. ^ "Two ferries to be built for interisland service".  
  12. ^ "Maui Land & Pine invests in ferry".  
  13. ^ "Grove Farm gets stake in Hawaii Superferry".  
  14. ^ "Hawaii Superferry risk to whales raised in 2005". Honolulu Advertiser. October 4, 2007. Retrieved 2013-09-13. 
  15. ^ Superferry, state not living up to promises to protect whales and Maui resources - News, Sports, Visitor's Information - The Maui News
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ Setback For Superferry
  18. ^ Superferry Races Legal Action
  19. ^ "Superferry takes passengers by hundreds".  
  20. ^ Kauai Garden News
  21. ^ Kauai Silent Majority Weighs In
  22. ^ YouTube - khon hawaii superferry news
  23. ^ YouTube - Superferry Passengers Lost in the Shuffle
  24. ^ "Ferry blocked".  
  25. ^ "Protesters’ flotilla halts vessel off Nawiliwili".  
  26. ^ Superferry Protestors Rally
  27. ^ "Superferry considers pulling out of Hawaii".  
  28. ^ Keefe, Joseph. "Profiles in Stupidity: Hawaii Superferry Idled by Courts". The Maritime Executive. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  29. ^ Special Session Opens
  30. ^ Maui Meeting Gets Heated
  31. ^ "Senate bill S.D.1" (PDF). State of Hawaii. 
  32. ^ House gives final OK to Hawaii Superferry bill
  33. ^ Governor Signs Ferry Legislation
  34. ^ Advertiser Staff (2007-11-14). "Judge clears Hawaii Superferry to sail".  
  35. ^ "Cruising anew; Ferry's Maui relaunch a success despite some protest".  
  36. ^ PDF: Superferry Supreme Court decision
  37. ^ Many affected by loss of Hawaii Superferry
  38. ^ Hawaii Superferry files for bankruptcy
  39. ^ Hawaii Superferry Goes Bankrupt
  40. ^ POSTED: 3:08 pm HST February 8, 2010 (2010-02-08). "Lawmakers Consider Interisland Ferry Revival - Honolulu News Story - KITV Honolulu". Retrieved 2010-08-23. 
  41. ^ POSTED: 5:11 pm HST April 6, 2010 (2010-04-06). "Senators Sink Ferry Service Study - Politics News Story - KITV Honolulu". Retrieved 2010-08-23. 
  42. ^ POSTED: 6:26 pm HST July 26, 2010 (2010-07-26). "Hannemann Wants To Revive Hawaii Superferry - Honolulu News Story - KITV Honolulu". Retrieved 2010-08-23. 
  43. ^ "Hannemann describes economic plan - Hawaii News". 2010-07-27. Retrieved 2010-08-23. 
  44. ^ "Senate committee approves measure for state-run ferries" from Honolulu Star-Advertiser (March 22, 2011)

External links

  • Hawaii SuperFerry
  • USA TodayHawaii Superferry opposition mounts,
  • KGMB9 newsHawaii Superferry Sails into Honolulu,
  • Austal website
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.