Maui voyage might be Superferry’s finale


POSTED: Thursday, March 19, 2009

As the Hawaii Superferry prepares for what could be its last voyage today ahead of extensive layoffs, Gov. Linda Lingle is hoping the state Supreme Court reconsiders the decision that prompted the shutdown of the interisland vessel.





        The 31 members of the Kapolei Chorale will be singing at the Maui Cultural Diversity Days Festival after all, thanks to passenger fare donations made by Mokulele Airlines.

The group's participation Saturday was in doubt after it lost free transportation aboard the Hawaii Superferry, which shut down this week.


The Kapolei Chorale is one of the anchor events at the festival at Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens in Iao Valley. The festival celebrates multicultural diversity.


Chorale musical director Doris Dudley said she received a telephone call from Mokulele Chief Executive Officer Bill Boyer Jr., who donated the airfares after reading the story about her group's problem in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.


“;We were so happy because that's how we got Mokulele,”; Dudley said.


The group is scheduled to perform on Sunday at the Tau Dance Theatre's 5th annual Hawaii-Japan Youth Exchange Concert at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center and also sing hymns in Latin and English at Mass at St. Anthony's Church at 9 a.m. Sunday.




“;The Legislature is looking at perhaps requesting a reconsideration,”; she said.

Meanwhile, Superferry President Tom Fargo scheduled a news conference early this morning at the interisland carrier's terminal facilities at Honolulu Harbor to discuss the future of the carrier.

Apart from further court challenges, the options for the Superferry appear to include throwing in the towel or remaining idle pending the completion of a state-mandated environmental impact analysis.

The high court ruled that a law known as Act 2, passed in 2007 by state legislators, was unconstitutional and provided special legislation for the Superferry to operate while it was preparing the environmental impact report.

Lingle said she felt the court's decision was too broad and could impact other laws.

“;Beyond the Superferry issue, there a much larger implication from the decision, and I know there are many legislators who are concerned about it going forward,”; she said.

Lingle said the decision basically concluded that state legislators can never pass laws that favor one group over another.

“;But that's what they do every day,”; she said.

Lingle said state lawmakers pass laws with tax incentives to agriculture and high technology and that based on the court's decision, someone could challenge these laws.

She said the court also threw out the operating agreement that required the Superferry to waive suing the state once the interisland carrier began operation.

She said the court might consider declaring a portion of the law unconstitutional and allow the rest to stand.

Lingle said the Superferry is looking at its options and does want to complete its environmental impact statement.

Superferry officials said the layoffs would leave the business with enough employees to continue corporate functions and maintain its assets.

But a number of questions remain unanswered, including whether the shutdown is temporary or long term.

Harbor officials, for their part, are wondering if the Superferry will continue to pay some $191,000 monthly as part of an agreement to repay the state for $40 million in ferry-related improvements.

The Superferry plans to make a round-trip between Maui and Oahu today to allow passengers with their vehicles to return to their respective islands.

A meeting set for yesterday between state harbor and Superferry officials was delayed, due to the details that required attention as a result of pending layoffs, a state official said.

Some 236 workers are employed by the Superferry and, for a significant number, their last work day is today.

A state rapid-response workforce assistance team has been assigned to assist the workers in their transition.

“;We're disappointed,”; Lingle said. “;I feel especially bad for the employees who are going to lose their jobs over this.”;