Lingle optimistic over
interisle ferry plans

Hawaii Superferry will apply for
funding for a yearlong pilot project

Gov. Linda Lingle said yesterday she's "pretty excited" about plans for a privately operated, high-speed passenger, vehicle and cargo ferry service between the islands.

"We think for sports teams from the neighbor islands, it could be huge," she said. "They could bring their own bus and drive it right onto the ferry. Molokai kids, for instance, wouldn't have to rent vehicles when they travel."

The governor said she was briefed last week on the plans by Hawaii Superferry, a Hawaii company that has been working quietly for several years to put together a financing, design and management plan that would work where others have failed.

Lingle said the company plans to apply through the state Department of Transportation for $5 million in federal funding available for a yearlong pilot project to prove the feasibility of such a service.

"They expressed that one of the significant limitations for them getting the kind of funding they need for a fully developed ferry system is that people have a memory of Seaflite," she said.

Seaflite launched its hydrofoil system in 1975 using jet-powered, high-speed hydrofoils for channel crossings, but they had difficulty in the huge open-ocean swells and floating objects like logs damaged their foils.

The operation ceased in 1978 when Seaflite's parent company failed for unrelated reasons.

"They have a different idea with a different vehicle, and they feel if they can do this project for a year they can attract the capital the need," Lingle said.

The ferry system proposed by Tim Dick, founder and president of HSF Ltd., which does business as Hawaii Superferry, recently won an endorsement from Enterprise Honolulu, a privately funded economic development organization that did a six-month study of the plan.

The vessel being considered is a $60 million "wave-piercing catamaran" some 320 feet long and 90 feet wide with four engines that can keep the vessel cruising at 42 knots (47 mph).

Similar vessels have been built in Australia and are in use around the world, including in conditions like those found between islands in Hawaii, according to Dick.


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