by Kaylee Hultgren | October 01, 2007

The new interisland Hawaii Superferry has resumed limited service under increased security after it was brought to a halt in late August by environmentalist groups just one day after setting sail for the first time.

The ferry, which attempted to provide interisland service between Oahu, Maui and Kauai, ran into trouble immediately after beginning its inaugural run on Aug. 25, when it was hit with a temporary restraining order, filed by eco-activists concerned for the safety of island marine life, and prohibited from docking in Maui’s Kahului Harbor.

When the ferry tried to sail the other leg of its route, to Kauai, protesters aboard surfboards and canoes attempted to block its passage into Nawiliwili Harbor, and a restraining order was filed in circuit court by the environmental group 1000 Friends of Kauai. That request was denied, but the vessel chose to suspend service altogether after the U.S. Coast Guard was unable to guarantee its safe passage.

The ruling that suspended service to Maui was made in light of an Aug. 23 Hawaii Supreme Court decision requiring the ferry company to undergo environmental review, overturning a lower court’s 2005 decision to spare the service from the study.

Representatives of the Superferry issued a statement asserting that the company “complied with, and in many instances exceeded, Hawaiian and federal environmental regulations.” But organizations such as the Sierra Club and Maui Tomorrow argued that a state-run, environmental impact study needed to be administered before service could resume.

In mid-September, the court allowed the ferry to resume its Oahu/Kauai route; whether Oahu/Maui service would resume while an impact study is underway was the subject of a series of court hearings taking place at press time.