Kauai Protestors Block Ferry

This is a continuation of “Why I Support a Ferry EIS.”

With the ferry scheduled to arrive at 6 pm last Sunday, opponents organized a press conference at Nawiliwili park at 4 pm. I arrived in time to hear a native Hawaiian blessing and short speeches by a county council member, Jo Ann Yukimura, and by our state senator, Gary Hooser. It was a small crowd of about 100 people, most of them with signs:

The park is adjacent to the seawall that extends into the harbor, providing a perfect view of the entrance to the harbor. The road that runs past the park and along the sea-wall is also the entrance (and exit) to the ferry terminal. Demonstrators were gathering at the park and then driving or walking down the jetty where they could wave signs at the ship and at the ferry terminal gate.

Update: Here is a map published by the Honolulu Advertiser showing the location of the protests in the harbor. The only problem is that it omits the key access road that runs under the park and along the jetty (colored in yellow on my correction). While this road has a gate at the turn to the jetty, it provides access for fishing and now for vehicles to the ferry terminal. This road obviously provided a perfect place for land-based protestors to wave signs at the ferry but also for surfboarders to access the water closest to the blockade.

Unfortunately, I had to leave early and I never saw the ferry on Sunday. According to the Garden Island article, the number of protestors grew to about 500, and more courageously, a dozen surfers paddled out to block the boat channel. The ferry entered the harbor, but the Coast Guard radioed for it to back off to avoid any accidents. Here’s a video from one of the protestors showing the surfers going out and the ferry backing up. Then the Coast Guard boats pick up or chase the surfers away:

The ferry docked an hour or two late (depending on the source) and then unloaded its passengers. Unfortunately, the vehicles needed to exit right next to the protestors and this led to confrontations, as shown at the end of the video above. I heard people were laying in the road, deflating tires, pounding on cars, yelling at their occupants, and arguing with police officers. Update: I also heard that drivers were advancing into the crowd of protestors. I dislike these actions from both sides because they create anger, and under the influence of the emotion, both sides become threatening and violent towards each other.

I do not support such behavior, and I hope organizers and participants in future demonstrations work to prevent it from happening again. The point was to block or further delay the passengers, which it did, but I’m certain that ferry opponents lost much support and sympathy as a result.

The next day, Monday, all of the ferry opponents felt empowered by those few surfers who managed to delay the ferry. Word was sent out again and protestors converged on the jetty around 5 pm. We heard the late news that a Maui judge had issued and injunction temporarily stopping the ferry to Maui, but not to Kauai. In any case, the ferry was on it’s way, I could see it on the horizon while driving to Lihue.

The first thing I noticed was that the police presence was much greater than the day before. The police closed the access road to prevent protestors from bring in cars, though seemed to be blocking the road themselves:

There is another access to the jetty road through the park, and I assume some protestors tried to bring a car and the police towed it away. The protestors in this picture are da big bruddahs (brothers) from the Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi, a local Hawaiian independence movement. I saw them both days at the protest, they say the laws of their government require an EIS for the ferry as well. They may also look big and tough, but they were all very friendly and peaceful when I saw them.

Despite the police and tough-looking guys, the area of the protest was calm, festive even. I went back to the car to get my sign and my daughter—it was my afternoon to baby-sit and we ended up seeing many children among the protestors. We walked to the end of the jetty where the main group was, staying with other families a short distance away from the noise.

By then it was past 5:30pm and the ferry had arrived at the harbor. However, there were even more surfers than the previous day already blocking the boat channel. The ferry was probably told not to enter, so it stayed outside the breakwater:

While the ferry was maneuvering outside the harbor, I got a good photo of the ship’s hull. I added the outline of the humpback whales roughly to scale to show how they could get hit. With a speed nearly twice that of any other ship currently operating, nobody knows if they can detect each other soon enough to get out of the way. There is also a video about the risk to whales with graphic images of whales killed by high-speed ferries elsewhere in the world.

This time, the Coast Guard was already deployed, using their big white cutter to support the little zodiacs. This view shows the whole harbor, with the breakwater on the right, the protestors in the channel, the ferry standing off, the Coast Guard cutter and zodiacs, and the Ninini point lighthouse in the distance. Behind the white cutter is the port tug boat. At first I thought the tug was waiting to bring in the ferry, but then I thought the ferry can go in on its own, so I’m not sure why the tug was out there.

Every now and then, another surfer would jump into the water from the jetty and the protestors would cheer him on. Seeing that the surfers were not moving from the channel, the Coast Guard tried to pluck them out with their zodiac boats. It was hard to tell what was going on from shore, so it’s not clear what the tactic was, whether they were just talking to the surfers, ordering them to leave, intimidating them with the boats or actually trying to pick them up somehow. Here’s a video I took, it’s 30MB:

Click to download 30 MB movie of Coast Guard zodiacs negociating with surfers

Behind the protestors was the ferry terminal staging area, where cars wait to be loaded on the boat. It didn’t seem that full, and many of the passengers were out of their cars, watching the ferry and the protestors. I felt bad for these people, they were stuck behind the fence, waiting with no end in sight. I feel the ferry company lured them with $5 fares into their risky tactic of launching service before the court injunction. Maybe the company thought the threat of stranding passengers would give them leverage to keep operating, a sort of fait accompli.

After a while, the big white Coast Guard cutter moved over into the shipping lane, heading towards the protestors. It sort of gives the ferry an aura of a military escort, though you can see from the photo that all the guns were covered, fortunately.

On Sunday, there was a report that the Coast Guard used some sort of net to round up the surfers. I don’t know if a net was deployed again, but after a while the big cutter and the zodiacs pushed together towards the surfers, herding them mostly to one side of the channel, as shown in this 60 MB video:

Click to download 60 MB movie of Coast Guard herding serfers with their big ship

While the surfers were mostly out of the channel, the Coast Guard boats were now in the way. But the surfers just stayed in the water and we couldn’t tell what was really going on. In this sort of stalemate position, a Coast Guard plane came in to land at the airport, and everyone wondered what kind of reinforcements they were bringing: negociators, divers, SWAT teams? Everybody was afraid the surfers were trapped and waiting to be plucked out of the water.

But then the tide started to turn, so to speak. While the channel was half-cleared, the tug boat motored back into the port, with big cheers by protestors who assumed it had given up on helping the ferry into the harbor.

Then some Hawaiian outrigger canoes paddled through the harbor and out into the channel, confusing everybody. At first the protestors thought they were saviors, the “big” boats coming to help. But they just paddled through and kept going out towards the light house. Then they came back and milled around, but never really stopping. Even from the news stories, it’s still not clear whether it was just paddling practice with some rubber-necking or if they really meant to join the blockade.

Whatever it was, the paddlers must have confused the Coast Guard as well because the zodiacs moved around and the surfers migrated back into the shipping channel. The cutter backed off again and the stand-off continued. I never saw any reinforcement arrive for the Coast Guard, so maybe it was just an observation plane.

When the sun was setting and I had to leave, the surfers were still occupying the channel, the zodiacs had given up harrassing them, and the ferry was still waiting outside the harbor.

Later that evening, I read online that the ferry had turned around soon thereafter and went back to Oahu without ever docking.

On Tuesday around noon, the Coast Guard announced that it had safety concerns about the situation and recommended that the ferry not sail to Kauai. Based on that assessement, Governor Lingle asked the ferry to suspend operations to Kauai. On Wednesday, the temporary injunction against the ferry using the port on Maui was extended while the hearing is delayed until the following Thursday.

For more articles about the ferry opposition see hui-r.info and IslandBreath.org.

Printed from: http://great-hikes.com/blog/ferry-blocked-by-protestors/.
© 2024.


  1. alex says:

    I agree that the state’s tactics seem underhanded. Additionally, I support the Kauai people’s efforts to force the state to conduct a proper EIS and I think some sort of economic impact report should be made too. But, from watching the video, it seems unlikely that a positive EIS and some sort of positive economic report would do much to change people’s minds. Asking for an EIS is merely a stall tactic. What happens when the reports come back in favor of the SuperFerry? As an oceanographer who has worked around both Kauai and Oahu, I suspect the SuperFerry will not present a serious threat to whales except during months of high activity. But, from the video and your letters, it seems that the main point of contention with the ferry has more to do with societal costs and the EIS is being used as a straw-man.
    Because I am trying to assess the situation objectively, I am not entirely sure where I stand. One thing I would consider though, if I were a resident of Kauai, is that Oahu – for all its ills and problems – subsidizes many of the services that are taken for granted on Kauai. This is how our tax system is structured. Large urban areas subsidize rural regions through taxes and high economic output. It happens that Kauai is a beneficiary of this system. I do not suggest that Kauai deserves to shoulder any of Oahu’s problems, but I think the decided ignorance of social responsibility in an effort to preserve the status quo, while Kauai residents benefit at the expense of Oahu’s seems a bit callous for the self-proclaimed “peaceful” people I saw in the protest video.

  2. Rodney says:

    Are we going to let the Superferry turn a National Marine Sanctuary into a Superhighway?

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