By: Mari-Eli David
HONOLULU HARBOR (KHNL) - It's full steam ahead for the Hawaii Superferry despite a Supreme Court ruling against the project.
"We are so committed to this. We've got 300 excited employees and we have a community in Hawaii that's just been supportive of this throughout the years," says Superferry President & CEO John Garibaldi.
The ruling made Friday reverses a Maui Circuit Court judge's decision allowing the Superferry to continue without conducting an environmental impact assessment.
Three environmental groups are challenging the project and say the assessment should have been done before planning began.
But in a press conference held Friday afternoon, Superferry officials say they've complied with all of the requirements set forth by the state.
The attorney representing the environmental groups such as the Sierra Club says he plans to file an injunction if the Superferry launches service.
The legal threat to keep the ship anchored doesn't seem to hold much weight with Superferry officials.
"Starting tomorrow at 6 am, we'll be offering a $5 fare. $5 for passengers, $5 for passenger vehicles, and for each voyage," says Garibaldi.
In a daring move, officials not only announced radically reduced fares, but also decided to launch service early - Sunday instead of Tuesday.
"This is really offensive I think, this is not how you do business in Hawaii," says Sierra Club Director Jeff Mikulina.
"They would be breaking the law if they went ahead with the project and started with their commercial operations while this environmental assessment is being prepared," says the plaintiff's attorney Isaac Hall.
Garibaldi says he is confident they are operating within legal lines.
"We have thousands and thousands of people who support us more than that small minority handful of people that have not," he says.
"There was a clear decision from the Supreme Court. They know what they need to do and now to come around and do this, it's really quite surprising for us," says Mikulina.
Whether or not the Superferry is treading on a thin legal line, until the courts resolve the ship's environmental issues, the company says it is determined to move full-speed ahead.
On Saturday, Superferry officials will hold an open house on Hawaii Island to give the public a preview of the ship before it sets sail Sunday.
Customers who already bought tickets will be refunded and offered the $5 discount fare.