Dude, the ferry isn’t going anywhere
A high-tech Hawaii ferry, built at a cost of $100 million, has suspended service, following protests by environmentalists and surfers and a court order prohibiting it from calling Maui.
Hawaii Superferry, which built the 350-foot-long, high-speed ferry at the Austal shipyard in Mobile, Ala., was been targeted by protesters who fear the new ship’s impact on whales and other marine life.
After two days of protests, the company said Tuesday it was indefinitely suspending service between O’ahu and Kaua’i, but that service would resume when the Coast Guard and other agencies can assure a safe operating environment.
The protests included swimmers and surfers created a human blockade that had prevented the ferry from entering Nawiliwili Harbor on Kaua’i.
In the meantime it said it would pick up airfare and hotel costs for passengers who were stranded because of the service prevention.
The all-aluminum Alaki is 350 feet long and can carry 866 passengers and up to 282 cars at speeds of up to 40 knots.
Separately a court order sought by environmentalists had halted service to Maui.
Gov. Linda Lingle, a longtime ferry supporter, also requested earlier this week that the service be suspended because of public safety concerns.
In addition to their concern about whales, opponents are concerned about spread of invasive species and worsening traffic and pollution.
But ferry officials say the ship’s water jet propulsion system means there are no exposed propellers to strike aquatic animals.
The ferry service aims to give tourists an alternative to airplanes when moving between islands.