STAR-BULLETIN FILE PHOTO
Dave Jung, operator of the Molokai Princess, wants to increase his rates from $40 one way to $65 one way.
High fuel costs hitting Maui ferries
Two ferry owners seek approval from the PUC to increase rates
LAHAINA » Steve Knight, who operates the Expeditions
ferry between Maui and Lanai, says he hasn't increased his $25 fare since setting it in 1988.
But faced with rising fuel costs, Knight and Maui's other intracounty ferry service are asking the state for permission to raise rates.
Knight is looking for a $3-a-head increase, saying "it should be obvious" to the state Public Utilities Commission that fuel costs alone would justify the new rate.
Meanwhile, Dave Jung, operator of the Molokai Princess, says he needs to charge $65 one way or $130 round trip to link Maui with the Friendly Island. Adults now pay $40 one way, and the fare for children is $20.
"If the PUC wants to see us still in business, it's got to help us out," Jung says. "I'm trying to protect my commuters."
Jung told his customers in a letter last week that said since his last general rate increase in 1997, the cost of fueling the Molokai Princess on two round trips a day between Lahaina and Kaunakakai has risen from $500 a day to $2,125.
"The math is simple and shocking," Jung wrote. The ferry averages 75 passengers per day, so "2,125 divided by 75 roundtrip passengers comes to $28.33 per round-trip passenger. That is $28.33 per passenger needed just to cover the fuel cost."
Operating the Molokai ferry has never amounted to anything more than a break-even business, Jung says, but providing a way for Molokai residents to get to jobs on Maui "is my community service."
He has several Molokai women who have been commuting daily to West Maui jobs for 20 years.
Early in his venture, Jung's Sea Link of Hawaii Inc. had received a state subsidy for carrying workers from high-unemployment Molokai to West Maui resorts, which were facing a severe labor shortage. The subsidy was later eliminated by the Legislature.
Tour operators are also being hit with higher fuel prices, but some can do something about it.
Whenever possible, Trilogy Excursions raises the sails on its five catamarans that offer dive, whale watch and other tours.
"We do have fairly efficient engines, and sailing is even more environmentally friendly than biodiesel," Trilogy Excursions' Jim Coon said.