Maui hearing looks at ferry route
WAILUKU » The Hawaii Superferry should avoid the southern summer route between Oahu and Maui, according to Greg Kaufman, president of the Pacific Whale Foundation.
The statement was part of Kaufman's recommendations on vessel speed and route yesterday during an ongoing hearing to determine whether the Hawaii Superferry should serve Kahului Harbor while an environmental assessment is conducted.
The route, Kaufman said, "cuts right through the heart of humpback whale breeding grounds and areas where other cetaceans are found year-round." A cetacean is a marine mammal such as a whale or dolphin.
Although he does not consider it to be a financially feasible solution, Kaufman identified an alternate route that would cut south of Lanai and go around the Hana side of Maui to Kahului Harbor.
Kaufman recommended a maximum speed of 15 mph for the south route and a change in course to avoid the area on the western edge of Molokai's Penguin Bank, where he said there are concentrations of cetaceans, including whale mothers and calves.
For the northern winter route, Kaufman recommended a speed of about 15 mph for the entire journey.
Kaufman said it would take a combined 33 seconds to detect a whale, convey the information to the captain and make a determination on which way to go.
That differs from testimony received last week from Hawaii Superferry Capt. Adam Parsons, who said the vessel could most likely avoid hitting an object that is spotted seven to eight seconds ahead of it.
"It easily takes 15 seconds to detect a whale and identify its location," said Kaufman.
He said whales typically blow four to five times with 15- to 20-second intervals between the blows.
Kaufman said factors that come into play include wind speed, wave height, movement of the vessel, experience of the observer, equipment available and issues associated with whale behavior.
In a series of questions that resembled an algebra word problem, Kaufman calculated that the Hawaii Superferry, traveling at 43 mph, would be unable to avoid hitting a whale 0.3 mile ahead. At a speed of 29 mph, there would be slightly more than 11 seconds to spare if the whale was spotted 0.3 mile away, he said.
The Hawaii Superferry established a whale avoidance policy in May 2005 that includes reduced speeds of 29 mph or less in waters less than 600 feet deep.
The hearing is set to resume at 9:15 this morning with testimony from state Department of Transportation Director Barry Fukunaga. Kaufman will return to the stand following Fukunaga's testimony.