Ferry from Maui to Molokai struggles to stay afloat

Molokai ferry in jeopardy
Updated: Mar. 24, 2015 at 1:26 AM HST
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Dave Jung, President of the Lahaina Cruise Company, which operates the Molokai Princess, says the future of the Molokai ferry is in jeopardy as ridership is at an all-time low and more people choose to fly to Maui instead of taking the two-hour boat ride.

Jung says he will be submitting an application for emergency relief to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on Tuesday.

Right now the ferry does two round trips a day. However, because of the extremely low ridership, Jung wants to cut those trips in half.

He says since last summer, ridership has dropped by 25-percent.

"Right now we're averaging about 100 people a day on four trips, which is about 25 people per trip, which is barely covering the fuel cost," said Jung.

The Molokai Princess has been taking passengers between Maui and Molokai for nearly 30 years. Last year, Jung says the company had almost $300,000 in losses.

"Its a pretty huge loss for a small company that isn't state supported, that receives no subsidies. So it would just be irresponsible for me to just keep running as is without trying to make some adjustments," Jung said.

A round-trip ticket is almost $125 dollars and Jung says more people are choosing to fly because of cheaper airfares.

However, Molokai High School Athletics Director Lee DeRouin says the school prefers the ferry over the plane because it's more flexible with scheduling.

"It's hard for the coaches to know who's traveling each week due to injuries, academics, and also who's putting out in practice to actually travel, to make the travel team,” DeRouin said.

Plus, DeRouin says the ferry allows them to carry on more equipment.

"Look at football, travel team of upwards to 30 kids, 35 kids. All bringing their sleeping equipment, their shoulder pads, their helmets, the first aid kit and sometimes cooking supplies," said DeRouin.

Jung says he hopes Maui County will be able to provide some subsidies, or allow them to limit travel to one round-trip a day.

He says the PUC could grant his application right away or could hold a series of public hearings, which could take months.

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