Big Isle harbormaster
likes ferry service idea

HILO >> The state harbormaster for the Big Island thinks the time is right for interisland ferry service between Honolulu and Hilo.

Ian Birnie said during the monthly "Big Island Business Forum" on radio station KPUA that using an Australian-built "superferry" could improve interisland travel and get produce to the market at cheaper prices.

Birnie noted that the ferry could travel from Honolulu to Hilo in five hours at a speed of 40 knots, or about 35 mph. He also noted the proposed system has several advantages, especially in light of increased interisland airfares and post-9/11 security.

He said it would also be "a wonderful service for people with family on other islands."

"I'd love to be able to load up my car with Christmas presents, drive it onto the ferry to Honolulu, then drive off to see my grandkids," he said.

Birnie also cited increased convenience for truck farmers. Currently, farmers must get their produce to a Big Island port, send it on a voyage to Honolulu that can take up to 30 hours, and coordinate ground transportation on Oahu.

"If they could drive a refrigerated container right onto a ... ferry and have that produce show up in Honolulu five hours later, and drive the same vehicle off the ferry, I should think that would be a huge advantage," Birnie said.

Gov. Linda Lingle's administration has been studying the feasibility of the superferry. In September she told a Big Island audience that post-9/11 air travel difficulties could make the idea "even more attractive, if the price was right."

HSF Ltd. is seeking financing to bring an Australian-built superferry to Hawaii.

"In the Vancouver area," said Birnie, "you can take ferries to different islands and keep the same rental car. It's very convenient. Why couldn't something like that work here?"


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