Hawaii Superferry (the first passenger-vehicle ferry between major Hawaiian islands) will stop its service after the state Supreme Court ruled it unfairly was allowed to bypass an environmental review. The state had exempted the Superferry from environmental review in 2005, but the Supreme Court later ruled that an environmental study was needed before the vessel could operate.
Critics have argued that Hawaiian Superferry’s 350-foot catamaran Alakai could harm whales and damage the area's fragile ecology.
The Honolulu Advertiser reports that Gov. Linda Lingle is saying she’ll ask the state Supreme Court to reconsider a decision that led to the shutdown of Hawaii Superferry, because the ruling could threaten other laws aimed at assisting particular groups. Earlier this week the Supreme Court ruled that a law allowing Superferry to operate before completion of a related environmental study was unconstitutional because the law was written specifically for Superferry.
Lingle is also concerned that the court's ruling wiped out the operating agreement with Superferry, which includes requiring the company to repay $40 million spent on state harbor improvements, and includes a clause that prevented Superferry from suing the state over the environmental review process or any judicial action.
Lingle said it was too early to talk about Superferry's future or how $40 million spent on state harbor improvements would be repaid if Superferry leaves the Islands. Lingle did note that Superferry wants the state to complete the environmental impact study.
Tom Fargo, President & CEO of Hawaii Superferry issued the following statement about Supreme Court ruling that forced the closing of Hawaii Superferry:
We would like to extend our gratitude to the more than 250,000 customers who have voyaged and booked with us and to all who have supported our service. I am especially grateful to the businesses that have sailed with us and now have apparently lost an economical alternative - Love's Bakery, CFI, Expeditors, FedEx, to name a few, as well as a host of smaller companies.
This is a difficult time for all of us. Our employees have been nothing but stellar in their dedication to our company and in their service to our customers and our community. I have been impressed with the commitment of our team in executing with great detail and energy all of our procedures to properly address environmental concerns and provide our passengers with the best customer service.
As I mentioned two days ago, we are hugely disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision that Act 2 is unconstitutional.
After a year of operations, including a successful winter season, we looked forward to the upcoming spring break with great energy and enthusiasm.
The problem before us today is there appears to be no short-term solution to this ruling. To conduct another EIS, even with the work done to date, and move it through legal review might take a year or so. Other options don't provide the certainty necessary to sustain a business.
As a result, we are going to have to go out and find other employment for Alakai, for now.
Obviously, this is not even close to our preferred outcome. We have believed from the start and continue to believe that there is a clear and unmet need for an Inter-Island High Speed Ferry System for the state. My hope, our hope, is that the conditions will eventually be such that we can realize that vision in Hawaii.
Hawaii Superferry also noted that it is in the process of calling all customers with near term bookings. Customers may also call 877-443-3779 or 808-853-4007 for immediate service.”