- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - Molokai ferry operators are seeking approval from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to operate on an “as needed” basis for voyages between Maui and Molokai in an effort to keep the ferry afloat financially.

According to documents filed with the PUC, ferry operator, Sea Link of Hawaii Inc., asked to change from a daily schedule to a minimum of six one-way voyages per week, reported The Maui News (https://bit.ly/1CqT99o). Sea Link also asked to change its cancellation policy.

Sea Link, which operates as Lahaina Cruise Co., currently reserves the right to cancel any voyage if it has not received a passenger or freight reservation at least 24 hours prior to a scheduled departure. The new cancellation policy they are asking for would allow any voyage to be canceled if the operator has not received at least 20 passenger reservations each way at least 48 hours before departure time.

Sea Link President and Senior Capt. Dave Jung said the changes are necessary due to a decline in ferry ridership that has been offset by airlines offering cheaper rates. The ferry is regulated by the PUC, while the airlines are unregulated, he said.

“These guys are fighting among themselves,” Jung said. “It’s tough for us to compete.”

The ferry operator’s application to the PUC comes after Maui County Council and Mayor Alan Arakawa approved $105,000 to keep the Molokai ferry running. The appropriation is a Band-Aid solution that allows the ferry to remain in business while the PUC considers its “as needed” changes, Jung said.

The 149-passenger vessel began operations in 1987 with the help of then-Gov. Ben Cayetano, who helped subsidize commuter fare with a $30,000 monthly stipend. Those subsidies ended in 1995.

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Information from: The Maui News, https://www.mauinews.com


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