Ferry between Maui, Molokai to end service this month

Markets Associated Press

A ferry that runs between Maui and Molokai will be decommissioned by the end of the month after reporting a nearly 50 percent drop in ridership from January to July.

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The Molokai ferry service will cease its operations Oct. 28. The move comes after the company that runs the ferry reported a $500,000 loss last year.

Sea Link President Dave Jung said the ferry has seen decreased ridership brought on by competition from federally subsidized commuter air travel, The Maui News reported (http://bit.ly/2dFxqCc). The 10 employees who work on the ferry will be absorbed by sister company Lahaina Cruise Co., he said.

On Monday, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved Sea Link's request to shutter its Molokai ferry operations, noting the company wanted to avoid further financial loss.

The commission received 21 comments from members the public on the request, with most calling for the ferry's continuation.

Commenters said the ferry was a "vital transportation service" and that they were against the "lack of financial assistance from the state and county governments."

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Stacy Helm Crivello, who represents Molokai on the Maui County Council, also voiced her support for the ferry, saying it's especially critical for young people and off-island workers.

"As a matter of low-cost affordable travel for our residents or our school's athletic teams who travel to Maui and Oahu to participate in athletic events, the affordability is paramount," Crivello said in a letter to the commission.

Jung said his company would look at supporting Molokai school and community groups with chartered ferry service, which is not regulated by the Public Utilities Commission.

Sea Link reported its total passenger count dropped 49 percent from 1,691 in January to 859 in July.

However, decreased ridership "doesn't mean you don't continue the service," Jung said. "We will lobby strongly for the state or county to assume ownership of a Maui Molokai ferry system."

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