Maui court permits Hawaii Superferry to resume service

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Hawaii Superferry could be days away from formally announcing plans to resume service now that a court has lifted a restraining order that prohibited it from operating.

The ruling by the Maui Circuit Court was the last remaining major legal hurdle left to clear before the ferry service could resume operations between Oahu, Maui and Kauai.

Hawaii Superferry and Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle filed the motion asking Maui Circuit Court Judge Joseph Cardoza to lift the injunction he imposed against the ferry company on Oct. 9.

The injunction prohibited the ferry from operating until after the state completed a study to determine whether the inter-island service would have a negative impact on sea life and the environment.

Hawaii's legislature later passed legislation, signed into law by Lingle, which would permit Hawaii Superferry to resume service while the environmental study is conducted.

To address concerns raised by environmental groups, the law also will impose certain conditions on Hawaii Superferry designed to minimize its impact on the environment and particularly the humpback whales that inhabit the waters around the islands.

Hawaii Superferry posted a statement on its Web site that stated "We are grateful for the support shown by the governor, legislature and residents of Hawaii and look forward to commencing service soon."

The inter-island ferry service, capable of carrying more than 800 passengers and 300 vehicles, launched on Aug. 29 but suspended operations days later following environmental protests and a ruling by Hawaii's Supreme Court which required an environmental study be conducted before it could resume operating.

The next step for Hawaii Superferry would be the rehiring of 249 of its 308 employees who were laid off in October.

To contact reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].

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