First Hawaiian Interisland Ferry Begins Service

Honolulu -- Hawaii's first interisland passenger ferry service began yesterday with a maiden voyage from here to Maui and a second trip from here to Kauai.

The Hawaii Superferry's single ship, the $95-million Alakai, is designed to carry more than 800 passengers and 200 cars. It completes one round trip daily to each island, and the trip one way takes about three hours.

Prior to the new ferry service, air travel represented the only regularly scheduled, commercial passenger transportation.

Although passengers paid a promotional fare of only $5 each for a one-way trip and another $5 per vehicle, the fare will increase on Sept. 5 to more than $240 for one passenger and a car, including taxes and a fuel surcharge, for a round trip between Honolulu and Maui or Honolulu and Kauai.

A second ship is now under construction and scheduled to serve the Big Island of Hawaii from Honolulu, beginning in 2009.

The roughest sailing Hawaii Superferry apparently faces for now is legal. Hawaii's Supreme Court last week ruled that the state failed to require an environmental report before the ferry service began. But state transportation officials allowed the service to start anyway. Environmentalists oppose the ferry, citing and possible danger to whales and more traffic and air pollution on the outlying islands receiving service.

For more information about the ferry, including reservations, visit hawaiisuperferry.com.

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