Could the Superferry make a comeback? State explores return of interisland system

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Could an interisland ferry system return to Hawaii?

The Hawaii Superferry made its last voyage back in 2009. It was a choppy ride marred by lawsuits, controversy, protests, and low ridership.

This time around, lawmakers asked the state to look into whether it’s a good idea to bring a ferry system back.

The state Department of Transportation says there are a lot of factors to think about, but the bottom line is, officials want to make sure a ferry system in Hawaii is done right. They’re looking at conducting a feasibility study to explore the option.

The Hawaii Superferry lasted less than two years before it was taken out of service. The state allowed the company to operate without an environmental review, which angered some residents and helped lead to its end.

But before closing, it offered one-way fares between $39 and $49. At the same time, the airlines were involved in their own airfare wars with $9 interisland tickets.

It’s a far cry from today’s interisland plane fares that some residents aren’t too happy about.

“Here in Hawaii, everything is so expensive. Everyone has to shop around for the best deal. I think the more competition we have, the more choices we have, there’s better pricing,” said Honolulu resident Angie Perez.

That’s something the Department of Transportation is keeping in mind.

“The mission and goals are sustainable transportation. We’re looking for alternative modes of transportation, and a ferry system falls into that,” said DOT spokesman Tim Sakahara.

Sakahara says the department will make sure “things are done right” this time around, by looking into community support, the environmental impact, and whether a ferry system will make money for the state.

“We definitely want to make sure everything is addressed. All those things, like routes, speeds, impacts to the environment,” he said. “We will look into whether people will use it.”

Dominic Kadooka with Waimanalo Country Farms says farmers can benefit from an interisland ferry. The farm’s biggest moneymakers are corn and lemonade, two things that places on Maui and Kauai have called and requested for.

“We only sell them here at farmers markets. It would be great to have other islands and expand our customer base,” Kadooka said.

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