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The only commercial passenger vessels docking on Kauaʻi at Lihuʻe's Nawiliwili Harbor are cruise ships, mainly Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises.

Superferry Non Grata

In August 2007, when the Hawaii Superferry sailed toward Nawiliwili Harbor for its first arrival, there was a dramatic stand-off as some 300 Kauaʻi protesters blocked its entry. Three-dozen people even swam into the gargantuan ferry’s path, shouting, ‘Go home, go home!’ Ultimately, service to Maui (but not to Kauaʻi) was launched in December 2007, but the whole enterprise was indefinitely terminated in March 2009, when the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court deemed Superferry’s environmental impact statement (EIS) invalid.

Why was opposition to the ferry so furious? Actually, the opponents themselves were not ʻanti-ferry’ but, rather, anti-Superferry. They wanted smaller, passenger-only, publicly owned and slower-moving boats. Their main concerns were nighttime collisions with whales, worsened traffic on Neighbor Islands, the spread of environmental pests and plundering of natural resources by nonresidents. Indeed, during the Superferry’s brief run between Oʻahu and Maui, some passengers were caught taking home ʻopihi (edible limpet), crustaceans, algae, rocks, coral and reef fish.

That said, not all locals were opposed. In fact, many locals (especially Oʻahu residents) viewed the Superferry as a convenient way to visit friends and family on Neighbor Islands. They also cited the need for an alternate, fuel-efficient mode of transportation other than airplanes between the islands (though the enormous vessels were actually gas guzzlers).

For a compelling (if overwhelmingly detailed) account, read The Superferry Chronicles by Koohan Paik and Jerry Mander, which also analyzes the ferry’s ties to US military and commercial interests.