COURTESY OF HAWAII SUPERFERRY
Hawaii Superferry's first vessel was lowered into the water yesterday at the Mobile, Ala., shipyard of its builder, Austal USA. The company plans to bring the ship to Hawaii in May and begin service in July.
Superferry test-launched at mainland shipbuilder
The company plans a July 1 start despite lingering opposition
Hawaii Superferry's much-anticipated inaugural vessel did not make a splash, but floated on its own yesterday.
Hawaii Superferry plans to begin service from Honolulu on July 1 with once-daily voyages to Maui and Kauai. Each one-way trip will take three hours. Reservations are not being accepted yet. Service to the Big Island will begin in early 2009 and cost $10 more per segment.
Departure times: Honolulu-Maui, 6:30 a.m.; Maui-Honolulu, 11 a.m.; Honolulu-Kauai, 3 p.m.; Kauai-Honolulu, 7 p.m.
Maui/Kauai fares (off-peak/peak*): Advance purchase online, $42/$52; base passenger, $50/$60; children under 2, $15 any time. A fuel surcharge will be added of $5 to $8 each way.
Car/SUV fares (off-peak/peak): $55/$65 (in addition to passenger fares)
Web site: www.SuperFerry.com
* Off-peak days are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; peak days are Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
And company officials could not have been more relieved.
Marking a milestone in a sometimes controversial six-year journey from inception, the 349-foot catamaran was lowered into the Mobile River after having been removed from a construction shed in Mobile, Ala., and placed into dry dock a day earlier.
"Yesterday and today was really the culmination of 2 1/2 years of work," said Hawaii Superferry President and Chief Executive John Garibaldi, referring to the beginning of construction in June 2004. "(This wasn't) the traditional launch that people see in movies, of having the vessel make a glorious splash into the water. This has been a very long process."
Despite an ocean of environmental concerns that has included whale endangerment and the transportation of invasive species, Hawaii Superferry took another step forward yesterday by unveiling a manta ray livery design and logo, as well as a redesigned Web site at www.HawaiiSuperferry.com.
Garibaldi also announced that Hawaii Superferry was forming a relationship with the Manta Pacific Research Foundation and would contribute to the publication of a new book, "Manta Rays of Hawaii," as well as offer educational information aboard its vessel.
"The support is a natural fit with the image we have selected to represent Hawaii Superferry," Garibaldi said. "Just as the manta ray navigates our waters with elegance and efficiency, so, too, will our ferry serve Hawaii. And unlike the stingray, the manta ray does not sting, charge or bite. The benign manta ray calls Hawaii home, moving freely and naturally in our waters. This spirit exemplifies Hawaii Superferry's connection to the state."
Garibaldi said he has no concerns that any last-minute snags will emanate from the new Legislative session, despite continued calls by some for an environmental impact statement. Besides the issues of whales and invasive species, traffic congestion and a crowded Kahului Harbor also have raised concerns.
"We're still planning to have our service start July 1," he said. "We've been working with the communities throughout the year in doing a lot of research in the environmental area. We've worked with the state through the Department of Transportation. We support the process they have going on now, doing a master plan for Kahului Harbor as well as an environmental review over there."
Among the environmental steps Hawaii Superferry is taking are:
» A whale avoidance plan in which it changes routes during whale season, reduces speed and has additional lookouts on board to observe the whales.
» Educating people about what they can and cannot bring on board and letting them know how they can prevent the spread of invasive species.
» Not discharging waste water, trash or solid waste at sea and waiting until they can be properly disposed of while docked in Honolulu.
» Using a special nontoxic bottom paint in order to prevent unwanted marine life from traveling in Hawaii's waters.
Hawaii Superferry, whose normal surface speed will be 35 knots (40 mph), will offer once-daily round-trip service to Maui and Kauai when it begins service. Each trip will take about three hours and accommodate up to 866 passengers and 282 cars.
A second vessel that is scheduled to begin service in early 2009 will serve the Big Island. Those voyages will take 4 1/2 hours.
Garibaldi said he anticipates a "very high" completion rate of voyages and that inclement ocean conditions likely will force cancellation of fewer than 2 percent of the voyages.
Among the on-board amenities for passengers will be three eating places, a wireless Internet access area, newly released movies, television, a children's play area, a teen gathering place, board games, video games, leather couches and a retail store.
"We want to create an environment on board so there's a lot to do and see, but if you want to sit around and talk to your family and friends, there's a lot of places to do that," said Terry O'Halloran, director of business development for Hawaii Superferry.
The vessel also will offer panoramic views of the ocean and islands through floor-to-ceiling windows. There will be one outside observation area at the stern of the boat.
The inaugural vessel is about 95 percent complete and is awaiting some interior work. It will be moored at the pier of its shipbuilder, Austal USA, in Mobile. It is scheduled to arrive in Hawaii in early May.
Hawaii Superferry will employ 200 people with the first vessel. Its total work force is to increase to 300 when the second vessel arrives.
Garibaldi said the venture is "well capitalized." It initially started with about $3.3 million in funding from a core group of investors, then more than $90 million was raised from other participants. That enabled Hawaii Superferry to receive a $140 million federal loan from the U.S. Maritime Administration.
"We see the largest percentage of our revenue coming from passengers and their vehicles -- probably about two-thirds of that," Garibaldi said. "The other third would be commercial vehicles. It would be not moving only agriculture, but also any goods that have a need to move on a quick basis. It opens up markets for everyone in the state."