The Hawaii SuperFerry

The Hawaii Superferry was supposed to change the way residents and visitors traveled between the Hawaiian Islands, but it all seems to have become a waste of time and money. Legal issues over environmental impact statements and protests from residents of Maui and Kauai halted the ferry in its tracks. The Superferry project is closed with no sign of re-opening any time soon.

The Superferry, 340 feet long and 80 feet wide—imagine a three-deck football field—will be capable of transporting 900 people, 200 cars and 15 trucks from Oahu to Maui, Kauai or the Big Island. Sailing at a rate of 48 mph, an Oahu-to-Maui or Oahu-to-Kauai trip will take approximately three hours. Excursions to the Big Island will take four hours.

Ian Birnie, state harbormaster for the Big Island, told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that the ferry service should be “a wonderful service” for people with family on other islands. Said Birnie, “I’d love to be able to load up my car with Christmas presents, drive it onto the ferry to Honolulu, and then drive off to see my grandkids.”

Passenger fares, according to Hawaii Superferry, will be about half the cost of flying. Automobiles, vans, motorcycles and pickup trucks may also be transported (costs will be based on vehicle length and weight).

Three hours may seem like a long duration, but passengers will have plenty of options to help pass the time. Included on each ship will be a restaurant, coffee and juice bar, fast food offerings, live satellite TV, a children’s play area, a business center, gift shop and more. A pre-arrival video highlighting the destination island will also be presented.

In January 2004, Hawaii Superferry officials announced that Austal USA has agreed to build two catamaran vessels. Each vessel will cost about $75 million. Eventually, Hawaii Superferry expects to have at least three ships running. Each vessel will feature semi-SWATH-type hulls that are designed specifically for Hawaiian waters, ensuring a smooth ride from port to port.

Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle and U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye have voiced their support to the project. The state completed a $4.3-million interisland ferry terminal at Pier 19 in Honolulu Harbor in 2002.

“This is going to be a nice new travel option in the islands,” predicts Hawaii Superferry chairman Timothy Dick. “It’ll be like sailing on a mini-cruise ship.”

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