Wednesday, October 31, 2001

The fire boat Mokuahi salutes as the cruise ship
S.S. Independence pulls out of Honolulu Harbor
yesterday afternoon, probably for the last time.

The anchor’s away:
Aloha ‘Oe to the Indy

The last American liner helped
repopularize the cruise business in Hawaii

By Russ Lynch

Emotions abounded as the 50-year-old cruise liner SS Independence sailed out of Honolulu Harbor yesterday afternoon, bound for San Francisco and probable mothballing and death.

"I worked for the company for eight years. I'm devastated," said Susan Nobrega, whose last job before the ship's operators went bankrupt and shut down Hawaii operations Oct. 18 was as the assistant to one of the local executives.

"I'm heartbroken," Nobrega said, seeking her own solitude at Pier 10, next to the Aloha Tower Marketplace and across the water from formal farewell prayers, songs and dances as the affectionately known "Indy" left Pier 19 yesterday afternoon. "It's more my own aloha. It's a healing," she said, as the 860-passenger ship pulled away under its own power, accompanied by aloha music from the dock and a fountain display from the city's fire boat Mokuahi, but with only a crew of about 40 aboard.

"What's sad is that it is the last American cruise liner," said Honolulu businessman Marc Anthony, who was lunching at the Gordon Biersch restaurant at Aloha Tower and had seen the ship come and go week after week.

Hula dancer Fran Komomura and other members of the
Aloha Towers Entertainers performed yesterday afternoon
at the departure ceremony of the SS Independence. The
ship left Honolulu Harbor, likely for the last time, since
its parent company has declared bankruptcy.

A dozen former crew members and support personnel watched the ship back itself away from the dock, rolling past the ms Patriot tied up at Pier 24, its own future in jeopardy because it was operated by the same company, American Classic Voyages

Tourists gathered too, asking what the hullabaloo was about and shooting pictures, impressed by the old twin-funnel design of the Indy, which plied Hawaiian waters since 1980.

As the ship passed the 21st-century Norwegian Sky, docked at Pier 2, it was the old giving way to the new.

The Norwegian Sky is foreign-owned and foreign-crewed. A related ship, the 2,200-passenger Norwegian Star, will be based in Honolulu from mid-December, making round-the-islands cruises similar to those plied by the Ind, but dodging foreign-ship limitations by stopping on each trip at Fanning Island in the Republic of Kiribati.

It's arrival will be good for Hawaii tourism, but not for Hawaii ship jobs. More than a thousand crew members and support personnel lost their jobs in the American Classic bankruptcy.

Still uncertain is the fate of American Classic's Project America, the plan to build two new 1,900-passenger cruise liners for Hawaiian waters at a shipyard in Mississippi. The ships, costing about $400 million each, were to be delivered in early 2004 and early 2005.

Northrop Grumman Corp. stopped work on the ships last week, with the first of them 40 percent completed, saying it could not continue without new financing, currently unavailable because the U.S. Maritime Administration withdrew its loan guarantees.

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