Layoffs follow high court ruling on Superferry


POSTED: Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hawaii Superferry officials planned to meet today with the state to discuss its plan to shut down operations effective Friday.

;[Preview]    Hawaii Superferry Lays Off Workers

Employing about 250 workers, Hawaii Superferry is suspending operations in Hawaii Thursday and will lay off workers.



Harbors Division chief Michael Formby said one of the issues to be discussed is whether the shutdown of the Superferry will be temporary or long-term.

“;We don't know that yet. ... We're all in the initial stages of what we need to vet out,”; he said.

Yesterday, the Superferry announced it will begin releasing employees starting Friday, after a round-trip, Maui-Oahu voyage tomorrow to bring passengers and vehicles to their respective home ports.

The Superferry employs 161 full- and part-time workers and 75 contracted employees.

“;These are exceptional people who have been valued members of our company,”; the company said in a statement. “;Anyone who has sailed on Alakai can attest to their competence and aloha to our customers.”;

Several stranded Maui passengers yesterday expressed shock and disappointment at the closure of operations on Oahu and their wait until Thursday for a chance to return with their vehicles to the Valley Isle.

Sonny Gonzales and his wife, Genalin, said they needed to return to their jobs.

“;Oh, my gosh, how can we go back to work?”; said Gonzales, a golf course maintenance worker.

Gonzales said he and his wife can't fly back and leave their car because it is their only family car and they rely upon it to get to work.

Austrian visitor Peter Vadasz said he's been to Hawaii previously and one of the reasons why he and his wife, Monika, returned was because of their planned voyage aboard the Superferry.

“;We were looking forward to a ride. ... We are very disappointed,”; Vadasz said.

Formby said his division doesn't know if the Superferry will continue to maintain the barges and ramps used for boarding passengers and vehicles.

Superferry officials announced Monday that the company would halt operation for the present, after the Hawaii Supreme Court determined a state law allowing the interisland carrier to operate was unconstitutional.

Act 2, passed in a special legislative session in 2007, allowed the Superferry to operate while preparing an environmental impact statement.

Formby said he has instructed harbors consultant Belt Collins Ltd. to halt work on preparing the environmental impact statement under Act 2.

Formby said state transportation officials are considering using the information prepared under Act 2 to develop a broader environmental study.

He said the broader study could be used by any potential ferry provider in the future.

Formby said the harbors division did not have any other ferry business expressing interest in starting a service.

He estimated the broader environmental impact statement could be completed in four to six months.

“;The decision has not been made whether we go that route,”; Formby said.

Formby said other talks, such as money the Superferry pays the state through an operating agreement, is expected to be discussed in the future.

The 22-year agreement calls for the Superferry to pay about $191,000 a month to the state.

The payments go into a harbors special fund that reimburses the state for general obligation bonds issued to build $40 million in ferry-related improvements at Honolulu Harbor, Kahului Harbor on Maui, Nawiliwili on Kauai and Kawaihae Harbor on the Big Island.