Superferry Employees Caught in the Middle

Kanoa Parker
Kanoa Parker
Doree Coito
Doree Coito

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- As the Hawaii Superferry's legal drama plays out in court and in meetings, caught in the middle are the folks who work on that ship.

The majority of Superferry's employees are locals, people from Hawaii. They said critics are forgetting this ferry service is for locals to connect with family and friends on neighbor islands.

More than 300 employees work for the Superferry. Kanoa Parker is one of its chief officers. He helps navigate the ship.

"I've always been around the ocean my whole life, you know from surfing, diving, and paddling canoes," said the 33-year-old Palolo Valley native, who is of Hawaiian and Irish ancestry.

He said doing what he loves at home is priceless.

"To be able to advance my career here as opposed to being somewhere else as a merchant marine -- Alaska, the west coast, the far east, -- you know, it's really nice," he said.

Calvin Kaawa helps to keep the ship in working order. He comes from a long line of Hawaiian navigators.

"It's in my blood," said the 40-year-old native of Hakipuu. "It makes me feel like I'm doing my duty as my ancestors did by keeping everybody connected."

And those who work behind the ticket counters agree. They say CEO John Garibaldi makes sure the company embraces the concept of ohana.

"And he was very much involved in creating and having us maintain the Hawaiian culture and implementing that into the Hawaii Superferry," said Doree Coito, a Mililani resident who is of Hawaiian Portuguese ancestry.

"I really enjoy working here," said Mack Kahumoku, a Kaneohe native who is of Hawaiian, Chinese and Filipino ancestry. "It's a different form of interisland travel. That's for sure."

They said some people are forgetting the ferry service is for locals.

"We're trying to keep the islands together instead of being separate," said Kaawa. "This is my island; this is your island. But to remember we all came from the same area."

While the ship is empty for now, they hope to start back up soon.

"To have this opportunity to not only help local families, but also to do something that I love, it means a lot to me," said Parker.

"And as you connect passengers from Honolulu to Maui and Kauai, they'll be able to get together, have reunions, and see the real beauty of the islands that you'll never see from the air," said Coito. "And I was fortunate enough to see that riding the coast line of Maui and Molokai, and I know for a fact I never would have seen it from the air. And that reminds you of why Hawaii is one of the most magical places to live."

Superferry officials said they plan to keep their employees on the payroll until services start back up.