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Civil Beat: Hawaii Superferry

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The Superferry is back in the news this week as the State Department of Transportation released its report looking at the feasibility of a ferry. 

Chad Blair from our partners at Civil Beat returns for this week's discussion.

Paula Akana: The report not favorable to bringing back a Superferry?

Chad Blair: While the report mentions the Superferry a lot, it was actually focused on a couple of things: whether it's feasible to have an inter-island ferry system like the Superferry, or whether a ferry could just connect two islands or counties, or even parts of the same island. The Hawaii Legislature paid $50,000 for the DOT study. They are frustrated that we are an island state, but travel is mostly limited to flying.

Paula Akana: The Superferry had problems from the start by operating before an Environmental Impact Statement was finished and then there was the backlash from the public.

Chad Blair: So many of us will never forget the sight of swimmers, surfers and paddlers at Nawiliwili Harbor blocking the Superferry, which was huge from docking. Arrests were made, people could not get on or off the ferry, and it eventually was forced back to Oahu. We should point out here, that there were a lot of supporters of the ferry too, including on Kauai.

Paula Akana: But you say there is a bigger problem with a Superferry that isn't addressed in the report?

Chad Blair: The report does mention rough seas and bad weather as concerns for operating a ferry. But it does not specifically mention seasickness. While not everyone gets seasick, news reports said a lot of people on the Superferry did throw up. I myself got queasy during a trial run in calm waters from Honolulu Harbor to Waianae and back. Maybe I should have taken motion-sickness meds.

Paula Akana: We had sea flight hydrofoil in the 70s. That was fun. But it only carried passengers and it broke down. No doubt there is a need and desire for some type of ferry system.

Chad Blair: Flying inter island costs a lot, and we just lost a local carrier, Island Air. There used to be a Maui-Molokai ferry, but no more.

There is a passenger ferry between Lanai and Lahaina. And I once took the passenger ferry from Kalaeloa to Aloha Tower and back, but that didn't last long.

Paula Akana: Your story mentioned a system in Tasmania?

Chad Blair: It was suggested by a group called the Hawaii Shippers' Council. The idea is that ferries running between Tasmania and Australia are in waters similar to Hawaii's. It seems that they use a different type of vessel than a high-speed, aluminum-hulled catamaran. Same goes for parts of Europe.

Paula Akana: Do you ever think we will see one?

Chad Blair: I think the desire to drive your car onto a ferry and then go to another island will always be appealing — and we are a tourism-driven state. Same goes for moving business goods and supplies. But there are few things worse than sitting on a boat for hours and throwing up into a barf bag. That said, someone will probably learn the lessons of the Superferry and try again. We are surrounded by water.
 

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