Maui Judge Halts Superferry Operations on the Valley Isle

Larry Johanson
Larry Johanson
Jeff Mikulina
Jeff Mikulina

KAHULUI, Maui (KHNL) -- Monday afternoon, a Maui judge granted an order that stops the Hawaii Superferry from operating on Maui. This, a day after loud, and sometimes violent, protestors greeted passengers on Kauai.

It's a victory for environmental groups who want the Alakai docked until a thorough study is done about its impacts on neighbor island ports.

On Maui, that's exactly what will happen, at least for now, with a judge issuing a temporary order to halt service.

The Alakai came back to Oahu Monday afternoon from a trip to Maui.  It was the last official voyage to the Valley Isle, after a Maui judge hands down the latest setback to the Superferry's legal battle.

A low-key arrival on Oahu for the Superferry. It docked with no fanfare and no protestors.

"I think it's a great thing," said Honolulu resident Larry Johanson. "I think Hawaii needs more of this kind of stuff. It gives us an option to go another island in a way that's efficient."

For now this is the last Maui trip for the 350-foot ship.

"(Monday) afternoon Judge (Joseph) Cardoza signed and filed a written order at 2:30 pm, granting our request for a temporary restraining order, and entered findings that during the preparations of an environmental assessment, that the project could not go forward," said Isaac Hall, attorney for the environmental groups.

This means the Superferry cannot use the barge or state land at Kahului harbor, but it also means passengers and vehicles already on Maui won't be stranded.

"This court order does allow Superferry to offer to bring those people home or back to their port of origin," said Hall. "In other words, if somebody had come over here, in their early voyage and needs to get back home, they're permitted to take them back to Oahu."

Some believe this court battle unfairly targets the Superferry.

"I see no reason that this would cause additional harm," said Johanson. "We've been running ships in and out of these harbors for years and I don't know that this one is different from any others."

The Sierra Club said it just wants to make sure there's no harm to the environment.

"There's a lot of us, in fact, a lot of the Sierra Club members who would love to use the Superferry service," said Jeff Mikulina, director of the Hawaii Sierra Club. "But they want to make sure it's done responsibly and it's done safely, and that's what we're asking for."

On Wednesday, a motion for a preliminary injunction -- a more serious step -- will be filed on Maui. No word yet on how this ruling might affect Kauai operations, if at all.