The Moloka‘i Ferry made its final trip between Kaunakakai and Lahaina yesterday, carrying Moloka‘i’s football team to its last game of the season. Catherine Cluett-Pactol reports from The Moloka‘i Dispatch.
After 3 decades of service, the Molokai ferry received the go ahead last week from the Public Utilities Commission to end operations. Its final trip was Thursday. David Jung, president and captain of ferry operator Sea Link, blames falling ridership, severe financial losses and the low cost of air fares to Maui. Sea Link reported a 50 percent decrease in riders between January and July of this year.
With many residents and visitors choosing to travel by air, one group still relied exclusively on the ferry. Molokai High’s eight-man football team rode the ferry to all league games on Maui. With a large team, lots of equipment, and many family members joining them, flying on nine-seat planes isn’t practical. Molokai High Athletic Director Lee DeRouin says with the season’s final game out of the way, he has a year to figure out alternatives. One of those may be chartering a ferry through Sea Link’s parent, Lahaina Cruise Company. Jung confirmed they are open to charter-based services moving forward.
Even though ridership was down, many Molokai residents say the ferry was a part of life. Some have suggested the state or county should take over its operation but its future remains unclear.