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March 17, 2009

Hawaii Superferry suspends operations

Hawaii Superferry is to suspend operations after Hawaii's Supreme Court ruled that a law that allowed Superferry to operate during an environmental review is unconstitutional.

Hours after the ruling yesterday, Superferry contacted passengers who have booked travel between Oahu and Maui to notify them of the situation. The Alakai will make one additional roundtrip between the two Islands on Thursday to return passengers and vehicles.

The court ruled that the law that allowed Superferry to operate during an environmental review is improper because it is a special law created just for Superferry.

Although that environmental review, which is being prepared by a state contractor, is almost finished, Superferry opponents will insist that a new review be undertaken, since the current review is being conducted under a law now deemed unconstitutional. Environmental groups want a new review follow the more rigorous guidelines of the state's primary environmental review law.

The Honolulu Advertiser quotes Gov. Linda Lingle as saying she wanted to talk to the state Attorney General's office and state lawmakers about the state's options, including whether to ask the court to reconsider its ruling. She said it would be "devastating" if Superferry were to end operations.

"We want people to know we're going to work hard to make certain that the taxpayers are protected and that the Superferry is allowed to operate," Lingle said.

In a statement yesterday, the company said it was "hugely disappointed."

"We have operated on a regular, reliable and responsible basis for the past 11 months. During this time over 250,000 people have booked travel on Alakai and it has provided new economic opportunities for Hawaii's businesses.

"While the appeal is not yet final because a judgment on appeal has not been entered, we want to proceed prudently and have decided to cease operations for the present.

"Our first priority is to take care of our customers, both those who have recently traveled and need to return to either Oahu or Maui and those who have future bookings. We will make one additional round trip to get vehicles back to their homes this Thursday."


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