Lonely Planet Writer

Hawaiian State Senate seeks to revive the Superferry to travel between the islands

A defunct ferry system that once operated between the Hawaiian Islands is showing signs of coming back. Last year the Hawaii State Senate passed a resolution asking the Department of Transportation to conduct a study of Washington State’s ferry system, examining whether it could be used as a model for a new, state-run Hawaii Superferry. Earlier this month the House to move the bill forward for conference review.

The Superferry Alakai docked at Pier 19 in 2007. The Alakai sailed between Honolulu and Kahului, Maui between 2007 and 2009.
The Superferry Alakai docked at Pier 19 in 2007. The Alakai sailed between Honolulu and Kahului, Maui between 2007 and 2009. Image by billsoPHOTO / CC BY-SA 2.0

If revived, a state-run ferry service between the islands could bring a significant increase in inter-island transport. In 2007 the service began with $5 inaugural fares between Honolulu and Maui, significantly cheaper than flying. Proponents of the service say this would be a boon to tourism and an upgrade to emergency response services. But a revival of the ferry could also bring the ire of environmentalists.

The Hawaii Superferry ran from 2007 to 2009 as a private-venture passenger and vehicle service between O‘ahu and Maui. When the service began, it was interrupted by protesters on surfboards, who blockaded Nawiliwili Harbor on Kaua‘i. Environmentalists said the Superferry had a significant impact on the Hawaiian ecosystem, citing a danger for humpback whales, the spread of invasive species, and the cause of traffic problems. A judge ruled in 2009 that it was unconstitutional to allow the Superferry to operate without a full environmental review. The company immediately suspended service and later filed for bankruptcy.