Coast Guard Meets with Superferry, Kauai Officials to Come Up With a Plan

Charlie Ray
Charlie Ray

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- It's a scene that made national news. Protestors on surf boards keeping the Hawaii Superferry from dropping anchor on Kauai.

Many are asking when will the Superferry return to the Garden Isle, and how will the U.S. Coast Guard handle protestors?

Thursday night, no time table has been set. However officials from the Superferry, state and the coast guard are trying to hammer out a strategy that allows for the Superferry's return.

But what does this mean for ferry travel to and from the Garden Isle? It's still not clear at this time. The eventual goal is to resume Superferry service to Kauai, but the coast guard wants a concrete plan to avoid a situation similar to the ones we saw just a few days ago.

Scenes like this prompted the Hawaii Superferry to think twice about serving Kauai. Protestors paddled out to confront the 340-foot ship.

And on land, they directed their anger at ferry passengers. The coast guard and Kauai police were not able to control the crowd. For fear of his passengers' safety, Superferry CEO John Garibaldi on Tuesday, announced he would stop service to Kauai indefinitely.

"I think the efforts that will go on by the coast guard, by the state in dealing with Kauai will really get us in a position to resume service at a future date," he said.

So this afternoon, the coast guard announced it is taking steps to achieve that goal by coming up with a comprehensive plan.

"We don't do operations without deliberate planning," said Captain Charlie Ray, the U.S. Coast Guard's 14th District Acting Commander. "This is a unique situation and it requires unique planning and that's what we're doing today."

So the coast guard is meeting with Kauai officials and the folks with the Superferry. They say they want to prevent a repeat occurrence from a few days ago. The coast guard also answers critics who say officers did not do their job.

"What people need to understand is that this requires balance," said Capt. Ray. "When you are dealing with a situation on the water at night, it is very dangerous."

Capt. Ray said he applauds the actions of his officers on Kauai.

"And our people on scene, I'm very proud of them," he said. "They showed a degree of restraint; that's really outstanding."

He said the situation would have been different if the people in the water were terrorists.

"The U.S. Coast Guard has specific use of force, the capability, the authority and the intent to deter terrorists," said Capt. Ray.

So the coast guard said its officers must exercise caution when dealing with protestors.

"The potential for serious injury to the public during a confrontation on the water is very significant," said Capt. Ray.

A confrontation all parties involved are trying to avoid, if and when the Superferry resumes service to Kauai.

We asked if it will take weeks or months for the Superferry to resume service, and the coast guard would not comment. These meetings will continue in the days and, possibly even weeks, to come.