With the future of Hawaii Superferry increasingly in doubt, I’ve begun to notice more a few blog posts and Facebook petitions calling upon us to “Save the Superferry.” While well-intentioned, I fear these efforts are pretty much doomed to failure for a host of reasons.
First, some background: from about 2005 to 2008, I wrote (and edited) some pretty nasty stories about Hawaii Superferry, Inc. for Maui Time Weekly. These stories were all premised on the view (which I still hold) that Hawaii Superferry was probably a good idea and could be made to operate in an environmentally friendly manner, but the state and company officials pushing the boat were going about in an arrogant manner contemptuous of both public opinion and the state constitution. Recent court decisions would seem to have born out the later of those views.
But as this blog post from Hawaii Superferry Unofficial Blog shows in crisp detail, Hawaii Superferry was not really popular with the general public. What’s more, these numbers show Hawaii Superferry was never even close to breaking even financially, must less making a profit. I have no doubt that the Hawaii Superferry was a convenience for many people, but it just doesn’t seem to have been convenient for nearly enough people.
The story of the Hawaii Superferry is a tragedy–not because “it is the last in a list of businesses pecked to death by Hawaii’s anti-business ducks” (as this recent and absurd Richard Borreca column opines)–but because a few hundred people have lost their jobs because state officials weren’t doing theirs in the first place. Hawaii Superferry should never have been as controversial as it was. Had state officials pushed the company to do environmental studies early on, instead of seeking ways to end-run state environmental laws, I’m confident none of this would have happened and the Superferry would be running today.