Superferry Saga Lands in Manoa Classrooms

Dr. Tom Kellehr
Dr. Tom Kellehr
Keira MacDonald
Keira MacDonald

By Mari-Ela David

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- On Wednesday, the Hawaii Superferry was supposed to launch its second daily voyage to Maui.

But on Monday, the company delayed its plans so it could respond to concerns from Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares. This latest controversy just adds to the Superferry's public relations nightmare.

The ship is no longer sitting idle at Honolulu Harbor, but every move the Superferry makes seems to catch the public's attention - so much attention, the Alakai has become part of lesson plans at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

With the Superferry's public relations nightmare haunting the ship once again, University of Hawaii Professor Tom Kelleher is using the controversy as a platform to teach his students about the do's and don'ts of public relations. He explains, open communication is key to the Alakai's survival.

"Surfers in the harbor at kauai are definitely a vocal group. Superferry should listen to that and talk to them but they don't represent everybody. There are other groups out there and you've got to keep those lines of communication open realizing there's different groups with different interests," said Dr. Kelleher.

But taking all viewpoints into consideration is a sticky task. Students from Maui and Kauai know that lesson first-hand.

"I think that there's a lot of extremists who went a little bit too far in Kauai. I think we could've held ourselves back a little bit but I do think we really just put it out there what we feel," said student Keira MacDonald of Kauai.

"The way people on Maui were portrayed specifically, it kind of was made to look like everybody was against it and when it comes to me and a lot of the people I know, I think a lot more people are open to it than others think," said student Jessica Dennis of Maui.

The Alakai's debut in Hawaii has been anything but smooth sailing, and with Maui's community now feeling left out of Superferry's plans to expand, Dr. Kelleher says a balanced public relations strategy is critical.

Although Superferry executives will take time out to speak with Mayor Tavares about her concerns, they still anticipate launching a second voyage to Maui this spring.