10 WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE
- JOHN GARIBALDI -
HAWAII SUPERFERRY PRESIDENT
& CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
John Garibaldi boards the Superferry as it prepares to launch for Kahului Harbor.
Superferry CEO weathered the storms
It's been a tumultuous year for John Garibaldi. With his company making more waves in courtrooms and legislative chambers than at sea, the president and chief executive of the Hawaii Superferry watched the 349-foot Alakai's much-ballyhooed launch in late August turn into a legal and political football.
First, the state Supreme Court overturned a lower court's ruling and said an environmental assessment should have been completed before the state spent $40 million for harbor improvements to accommodate the ferry.
Then, after the Superferry started up two days earlier than scheduled following the high court's ruling, Maui Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza agreed with a motion by three environmental groups and issued a temporary restraining order to stop the Superferry from sailing to Kahului Harbor. The TRO later turned into a preliminary injunction and then a permanent one.
In the meantime, protesters risked their safety in the water to prevent the Superferry from docking in Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauai, and environmentalists tried to block the Superferry in Kauai Circuit Court as well.
That all led to a special legislative session where Garibaldi worked with Gov. Linda Lingle and lawmakers to push through a new law -- despite continued protests from environmentalists -- that allowed the Superferry to resume sailing during an environmental study.
"We've had our bit of excitement for the year," Garibaldi said. "Now that we've started up our service to Kahului, and after seeing how that community has reacted to it and the support that we've seen from the various customers that have taken advantage of the Superferry in the first week, I'm very excited and looking forward to the future."
Still, the financial losses have been substantial.
Not only was the Superferry bleeding $650,000 a week for payroll, ship maintenance, debt repayment and other costs when it was idled, Garibaldi estimates that lost revenue and fees for various legal and legislative proceedings during the 3 1/2 months the Superferry was shut down cost the company in excess of $10 million. Unable to bring in revenue, the Superferry eventually furloughed 249, or 81 percent, of its 308 workers. There are about 200 workers on the payroll now, with the $85 million ship only offering one daily round trip to Maui. Another daily round trip to Kauai has been postponed indefinitely due to the volatile situation there.
"Our business plan had us operating in the 40 to 50 percent load-factor range, and I think our goal is still to achieve those numbers," said Garibaldi, one of the driving forces in attracting investors to the Superferry. "Given the delay and given where we are in the market, it's taken a longer period of time to get up to that point."
The Superferry has a capacity of 866 passengers and 282 vehicles, and during its first week of resumed service carried from 150 to 300 passengers and 40 to 100 vehicles each way.
Garibaldi said he does not want to put a time frame on returning to Kauai, where emotions have run high.
"We're hoping to return there as soon as we can be assured it will be a safe environment for our passengers and the community," he said.
Garibaldi said one of the advantages in having the Maui service in operation now is that it can clear up a lot of the misunderstandings and misconceptions in how the ferry operates.
"We can look to that example as the actual experience of what happens with the operation of the ferry," he said. "We're hopeful that will answer or address some of the concerns of the people within the state."
Choosing the 10
In a daily countdown, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin is profiling 10 people who have made a difference in Hawaii during the past year.
These are people who worked in any field --community service, education, politics, law, labor, medicine, science, business, sports, entertainment, the arts -- to make a difference. Some fought controversial battles in public.
All that matters is that each, to the one, had a devotion to their cause that made a profound impact on Hawaii.
The 10 for 2007
» Dec. 22: John Garibaldi, Superferry
» Dec. 23: Isaac Hall, attorney
» Dec. 24: Deborah Zysman, Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii
» Dec. 25: Jennifer Kishimori, CatFriends
» Dec. 26: Lea Ok Soon Hong, Trust for Public Lands
» Dec. 27: Jaimie Kahale, Life Foundation
» Dec. 28: Moses Kalei Nahonoapiilani Haia III, Native Hawaiian Legal Corp.
» Dec. 29: Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian Airlines CEO
» Dec. 30: Darryl Vincent, United States Veterans Initiative
» Dec. 31: Colt Brennan, U.H. Quarterback