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Hawaii Superferry suspends service amid protests

August 29, 2007|From the Associated Press

HONOLULU — Hawaii Superferry Inc. on Tuesday suspended operations indefinitely after two turbulent days of emotional protests and legal setbacks.

The company halted service after the Coast Guard advised that it could not assure safe passage of the 350-foot ferry and passengers in and out of Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauai, where a flotilla of protesters blocked the vessel's docking late Monday.

A court order sought by environmentalists had already halted service to Maui.

Gov. Linda Lingle, a longtime supporter of Superferry, also requested Tuesday that the service be suspended because of public safety concerns.

Opponents say the ferry endangers whales, threatens to spread invasive species, and will worsen traffic and pollution. Superferry officials say the ship's water jet propulsion system means there are no exposed propellers to strike aquatic animals.

John Garibaldi, Superferry's president and chief executive, said operations would not be resumed until safety was assured by the Coast Guard. The company, which invested $300 million to launch Hawaii's first passenger-vehicle ferry service, faces losing millions of dollars while its vessel is grounded.

"The cost to us really isn't very important," Garibaldi said. "It's really making sure we can take care of our passengers."

Lingle said she was concerned by protests Monday night on Kauai that led to 11 arrests after about 65 people on surfboards, canoes and kayaks formed a human blockade and forced the $95-million Superferry to turn back to Honolulu.

Garibaldi and the governor said it's unfair that the Superferry was being singled out when cruise ships, cargo carriers and others had not been required to conduct environmental reviews.

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