The Hawaii Superferry plans to resume daily trips between Oahu and Maui on Dec. 1, but no date has been set for service to Kauai.
The company announced yesterday that a reduced one-way fare of $29 will be good through Dec. 20. The inaugural one-way fare for vehicles will be $55 for cars, vans and trucks and $35 for motorcycles, scooters and mo-peds. The passenger fare will be raised to $39 for Dec. 21 through March 12.
At the original launch date in August, passenger fares ranged from $52 to $62 depending on the day of the week, and vehicle fares started at $59. The company also offered $5 promotional fares at that time.
President and Chief Executive John Garibaldi said yesterday that the company and its 300 employees "look forward to a new beginning as we start our voyages ... a new choice for interisland travel."
No date has been set for Kauai service. Garibaldi said the company has begun "community outreach efforts on Kauai" where opponents blocked the ferry's entry to Nawiliwili Harbor in late August on its second voyage.
The new service was stalled for nearly three months after legal challenges on Maui and protesters on Kauai blocked the vessel. The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in August that the state must prepare an environmental assessment about Kahului harbor improvements needed for the ferry. Maui Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza ruled later that the ferry could not operate until the study was completed.
On Wednesday, Cardoza cleared the way for trips to resume when he lifted his injunction, citing state legislation passed last month in a special session that allows the Superferry to operate while the environmental study is compiled.
Charting a new course
» Starting Dec. 1, daily schedule: Depart 6:30 a.m. from Honolulu Harbor, arrive in Kahului Harbor at 9:30 a.m.; depart Kahului at 11 a.m., arrive in Honolulu at 2 p.m.
» Promotional fares: $29 one-way through Dec. 20, $39 after Dec. 21. Children up to 2 years old ride for free from Dec. 1 through March 12. All promotional fares are subject to Hawaii taxes and fees.
» Vehicles: $55 for four-wheeled vehicles, $35 for motorcycles and mo-peds
» Reservations: They are being taken starting this morning. The inaugural fares are available only on an advance-purchase basis. Reservations must be made online through www.HawaiiSuperferry.com or through the call center at (877) 443-3779. The call center is open daily from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
» Refunds: Customers who already purchased tickets at a higher fare for travel from Dec. 1 through March 12 will be refunded the difference of the special fares.
Ferry protest threat has Coast Guard alert
As the Hawaii Superferry prepares to sail again after winning challenges in court and at the state Capitol, the company now faces its most daunting obstacle: more protests in the water.
The last time the 350-foot catamaran tried to dock at Kauai's Nawiliwili Harbor, in August, it was turned away by a flotilla of protesters on canoes, kayaks and surfboards. They refused to budge and were encouraged by hundreds onshore.
The Coast Guard has been thrust into the middle of the emotional showdown and is now being forced into the difficult, unusual and possibly dangerous task of arresting Americans.
Coast Guard personnel previously failed to provide safe passage for the vessel as protesters heckled and splashed them. But the Coast Guard has warned it will take immediate action next time around.
"We have practiced and prepared for the worst-case scenario, so we will be ready," Coast Guard spokesman Lt. John Titchen said Thursday. "We hope, ultimately, demonstrators can find a lawful way to voice their opinion."
An emergency expanded security zone has been established at Nawiliwili, as well as a designated area for protesters. The Coast Guard is also considering establishing a similar security zone at Maui's Kahului Harbor despite the fact that no protests in the water have been held there. Anyone in violation of a security zone faces stiff federal penalties, including up to 10 years in prison.
"I think it's fair to say we'll be ready to apprehend and detain people who do violate the security zone, whereas prior to this we have demonstrated restraint," Titchen said.
The Coast Guard would not comment about tactics, personnel or vessels it plans to deploy, but it is clear that a major effort is being mounted before the ferry's resumption of service in a few weeks. The Coast Guard has been training and bringing in personnel from the mainland.
One challenge the Coast Guard is dealing with is how to safely place a protester in custody, Titchen said.
"What we hope to see are law-abiding citizens. We hope people recognize the U.S. Coast Guard has a challenging role in this situation," he said.
The Superferry, which is bringing back some of its 250 furloughed employees, announced yesterday that it will resume Maui service on Dec. 1 but has not yet scheduled its return to Kauai.
Maui Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza cleared the way Wednesday for the Superferry to operate before a study of its potential to harm endangered whales and to damage the environment is completed.
Attorney Isaac Hall, who represents three environmental groups that sued the Superferry, asked Cardoza to keep the Superferry out of service because of the threat to whales. He also warned that people will get hurt, saying if the injunction were dissolved, "the only way left to secure justice is in the water."
Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O'Hara, commander of the Coast Guard's 14th District, has acknowledged that officials have underestimated the protesters in the past. She has said no one was prepared "for that level of passion and determination to halt the Superferry's transit."
The Coast Guard's normal role in Hawaii is to protect Hawaii's shores and to rescue mariners in distress. Now it is being asked to be an enforcer.
"The Coast Guard is used to reaching in the water and pulling the hand of someone who desperately wants to be rescued. Now we have people who want to make a statement," she said.
State Sen. Gary Hooser (D, Kauai-Niihau) said he expects protests since so many people are unhappy with how the situation has played out. He voted against the Superferry's resumption of service during the recent special session.
"I would hope and encourage the Coast Guard as well as the state to not overreact and to exercise restraint," he said. "Should a situation develop ... I don't think it's helpful to escalate the tension by an unnecessary show of force."
Hooser said the Superferry needs to take its time and reach out to the community before resuming service.
"If they are serious about doing the community outreach and mending some of the rifts and not having a big scene on opening day, they should do that outreach and take the time it needs to make it work," he said.
In announcing the Superferry's return to Maui, company Chief Executive John Garibaldi said, "We have already begun community outreach efforts on Kauai. We will make our decision about when we commence our Kauai service once that process is completed."