Austal USA, builder of two Hawaii Superferry vessels, officially
handed over ownership of the first of the boats, the Alakai, to the
fledgling company on May 30, but a date has not been set for the
ferry to leave the Mobile, Ala., shipyard for Honolulu, some 5,000
nautical miles away.
While the builder
has met its obligations to the ship, according to Austal
spokeswoman Michele Bowden, the vessel cannot set sail until Hawaii
Superferry receives Coast Guard approval of its crew training
procedures and other items.
for a June debut, the service has been pushed back to late summer,
according to Hawaii Superferry. The second ship, now under
construction, is scheduled for delivery in 2009.
The $190 million
vessels are 340 feet long and four decks high and will have a
carrying capacity of 866 passengers and up to 282 vehicles
(including cars, trucks and buses).
the arrival of the Alakai, Hawaii Superferry is using the time to
work on creating packages and marketing agreements that will open
the door to commissionable bookings by travel agents.
company projects an initial 70/30 split between local and visitor
bookings, it is working on marketing agreements that will integrate
the Superferry into the visitor industry's existing distribution
channels. That means deals with car rental companies, tour
operators, wholesalers, travel agents, even airlines. Reservations,
for example, have been outsourced to Continental Airlines on
the key to working with agents and providing them with a commission
incentive," said Damon Hylton, Superferry director of marketing.
"We're working out packages with two major wholesalers and hope to
have commissionable product available to agents by July. We're
planning to add a booking option that will enable agents to print
unpriced tickets that allow them to include a service fee. We'll
also be involved in a large number of fam trips with agents."
It has taken a
great deal of time, expertise and money to create a new
transportation option and integrate it into the existing
transportation and distribution systems, with Superferry looking
for the right companies with which to partner.
"There's been a
lot of interest from a wide range of companies wanting to work with
us on developing packages," Hylton added. "That includes local tour
operators who are looking at day trips, wholesalers looking for
something new for Hawaii's repeat market and meetings and
convention companies. We're working with market segments we didn't
anticipate when we started."
The ship has been
built to suit Hawaiian waters, with computerized stabilization for
each of its two hulls. Decor is stylish and upscale, with onboard
activities and restaurants to enhance the three-hour-long travel
The Alakai will
offer daily roundtrips on Oahu/Maui and Oahu/Kauai runs, with
service to the island of Hawaii set for 2009.
On the ground,
arrivals and departures have been scheduled outside peak travel
times. Critics had cited traffic congestion and strains on limited
harbor space among their concerns.
"We should be
able to get all passengers and vehicles off-loaded in 10 to 15
minutes," Hylton added. "We have a holding area that can hold a
shipload of cars, so we're not anticipating problems.
hard to address community concerns, and we're doing everything we
can to be a good, responsible neighbor."
The company is
hiring locally, with an anticipated staff of 200.
tickets, sold as one-way segments, will be priced at $52 off-peak
(Tuesdays through Thursdays) and $62 peak (Fridays through
Mondays). There is also a fuel surcharge (likely $5 to $10) linked
to fuel costs. Advance purchase ticketing secures an $8 discount.
An upgrade to the 174-passenger Hahalua ("manta ray") Lounge, with
welcome beverage, pupus and in-lounge service personnel, is an
additional $20, which puts a one-way fare at $49 to $72, with
discounted fares for children (12 and under) and seniors (62 and
over). Car rates are $59 off-peak, $69 peak.
"We see the
Superferry as more than just a transportation option. We see it as
an experience. The ability to see Hawaii from the water is a
spectacular plus. And we offer the potential cost savings and
convenience of travel with your own vehicle on a relaxing trip,"
Hylton said. "It's a particularly good option for families, with
the kids remaining in the car throughout the drive-on and with game
room, WiFi and restaurant service making it an enjoyable and
competitively priced option for families."
Seeking to grow
its marketing options, packages will include air/sea combinations
that are well suited to day trips to either Maui or Kauai.
In terms of
pricing, Hylton admitted that the current fare war in the
interisland market might provide a cost advantage for the bargain
hunter. Company President and CEO John Garibaldi, a veteran of the
airlines with stints at both Aloha and Hawaiian, looks at it with a
airline industry, I can't predict when Hawaii will return to a
two-carrier market, but I won't be surprised when it does happen,"
Garibaldi said. "We're already competitively priced relative to
many current interisland air fares, and that won't change. Our
challenge now is to satisfy people's expectations by delivering
convenience and a quality product."
Much of the more
than $200 million investment required to build the two high-tech
superferries and set the business in motion was provided by New
York-based investor J.F. Lehman.
served as secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, brought
some nautical expertise to the table, and the result is an
innovative, catamaran-style vessel (the first of its kind built in
the U.S.) designed for smooth sailing at up to 35 knots in Hawaii's
sometimes-rough interisland waters.
call (877) HIFERRY (443-3779) or visit www.hawaiisuperferry.com.
To contact reporter Allan Seiden, send e-mail to [email protected].