Where did our interisland ferry go?
by Rachelle Chang, Better Hawaii, September 8, 2015
In the 1930s, residents and visitors could travel between Hawaii’s islands by boat. “Travel to the outside islands by boat was $9 to Kaua‘i, $5.50 to Moloka‘i and Lana‘i, $14.50 one way to Hilo, and only $11.50 to Mahukona, Kawaihae, and Kailua on the Big Island,” wrote Maile Yardley in her book “Hawaii’s Glamour Days” (1996).
I don’t know when we lost our interisland ferry service, but we currently have just two ferries that connect Maui and Lanai and Maui and Molokai. The Hawaii Super Ferry, which transported passengers, cargo, and vehicles, closed down in 2009 after just 15 months of service.
To be honest, I expected the next governor to step up and revive the project. I expected another Hawaii company to try to find a way to run a ferry service efficiently and affordably. I expected more public support for an interisland ferry to connect all of the islands. I missed my chance to ride the Super Ferry, and I don’t understand why we can’t bring it back.
Most island nations have a ferry service. In Indonesia, there are passenger liners that do weekly and monthly circuits among the islands, as well as ASDP fast ferries. In Japan, there is a ferry service between the main Japanese islands as well as other islands in the Japan Sea, China, and South Korea, with shared or private berths. In the Bahamas, there are slow boats to the Out Islands and Fast Ferries that run twice daily between Nassau and Harbor Island and North Eleuthera, and twice weekly between Nassau and Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera. In Australia, there is passenger and vehicle ferry service between Melbourne and Tasmania; a SeaLink ferry between South Australia and Kangaroo Island; and ferries connecting suburbs in capital cities.
True, those island nations have a much larger population than Hawaii’s 1.4 million people. But consider Fiji, with around 900,000 people on 106 inhabited islands, which is connected by fast passenger catamarans, passenger ferries, and cargo boats. Consider the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago, with around 1.3 million people, which are connected by a daily ferry service between Port Spain and Scarborough for passengers, cargo, and vehicles; as well as the Water Taxi service between Port Spain and San Fernando. Yet Hawaii relies on airplanes for interisland travel.
Here are 7 reminders about why Hawaii needs an interisland passenger ferry service:
* Convenience. A ferry would allow passengers to take their pets, vehicles, surfboards, canoes, bicycles, mopeds, and more to other islands. Luggage could be stored in cars, and you could be ready to go just after arriving at a port.
* Affordability. A ferry service might take longer, but it could also be more affordable for families and large groups, like a family that wants to go camping, a high school band, or a theatre group.
* Choice. A ferry service is a good alternative for people who don’t like to travel by air; who want room to move around or fresh air instead of recycled cabin air; or who have large valuables that they don’t want to trust to baggage handling. It could offer amenities with fine dining and entertainment for those who want a more luxurious way to travel.
* Business transport. A ferry service could help small businesses transport products to neighbor islands more quickly and affordably, letting them load up their own vehicles and deliver to their customers.
* Kamaaina tourism. We could promote neighbor island staycations, strengthening our economy and helping Hawaii businesses. Passengers could even cruise around the islands.
* Emergency response. A ferry could carry foods, supplies, medicine, and aid workers to affected areas during and after a hurricane, tsunami, or other natural disaster.
* Evacuation. A ferry could carry wounded or displaced persons to a more safe or well-stocked area, or could reunite families on different islands after a disaster.
I think it’s again time to plan for a ferry service to give residents and visitors more options for interisland travel. We are an island state and we need to be more connected to each other. What do you think?
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