The Sinking Superferry Situation
Wednesday - March 25, 2009
The Hawaii Superferry, unless there is a miracle, sleeps with the fishes. Instead of decrying the actions of a relative few who are celebrating the sinking of the Superferry, the focus of our attention should be on the Superferry itself.
Here is a group of visionaries who firmly believed their service would not only be a sound business venture, but also would enhance the lives of locals. Millions of dollars were secured, construction of state-of-the-art vessels was completed, and hundreds of local jobs were created. Despite the caterwauling of some, the Superferry delivered on its promises.
Outrageous claims that whales would be slaughtered, criminals would be imported and favorite surf spots would be overrun never materialized. But the promise of safe, comfortable and affordable interisland travel was kept. Merchants benefited from increased commerce, families were united, school groups and teams traveled efficiently, and travelers had a real alternative to inter-island airfares. The Superferry safety record was excellent, and virtually all who used it loved it.
One would think that any community would appreciate a good corporate neighbor and make it feel welcome. Any community, that is, other than ours. The Hawaii Superferry suffered from unreasonable demands, despicable treatment of its property, staff and customers, and an unequal application of law. Even with these barricades, the Superferry still believed in its original business plan and contribution to the local experience. Weathering inordinate seasonal rough seas, dry-docking damages and omnipresent litigation, the Superferry kept its commitment to Hawaii.
The recent Hawaii State Supreme Court decision invalidating Act 2 (legislation enabling Hawaii Superferry to operate while the Environmental Impact Statement was completed) as unconstitutional scuttled the entire effort. Now, instead of a viable alternative for travel and shipping, there are hundreds of locals out of work and a good corporate citizen out millions of dollars. It’s unfathomable that any other inter-island ferry company would risk time and investment by working with the state of Hawaii.
All are not lamenting the loss of the Hawaii Superferry. Executives at Matson, Young Bros. and Horizon are cheering each other with an extra martini at lunch. Senior management at Hawaiian, Island Air and go! airlines won’t be shedding a tear. The “environmentalists” and their groups are certainly going to use this as a springboard to sue anybody and anything they don’t like.
But there is no victory in this story. Rarely has our community been as bitterly divided. Livelihoods have been lost in this brutal economy. The business reputation of our state has been further sullied at a time we can least afford it. A real alternative to the status quo is gone.
I am sure the Hawaii Superferry story will have a happy ending after all. There will be a community that wants its service. There will be passengers to enjoy its comforts. There will be hundreds employed. There will be businesses benefitting from less-expensive shipping costs. There will be a litigation-free environment where the owners will be able to earn a living. There will be a long-lasting relationship between government, business and the public.
It just won’t be here.
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