Thursday, June 05, 2008


MauiTime Weekly goes where "paper of record" fears to tread

by Larry Geller

The MauiTime Weekly isn't afraid to analyze the Superferry numbers that the Honolulu dailies (and apparently the Maui News) simply transcribed from the company's statement. Good for outgoing editor Anthony Pignataro.


Leave it to The Maui News' Harry Eagar to provide Hawai`i Superferry, Inc. (HSF) with a boatload of super publicity. "The ferry Alakai has enjoyed calm seas for several weeks, and her owner Hawaii Superferry, also has enjoyed a peaceful period since getting Alakai back in service," was how Eagar started his massive story yesterday titled "Smooth sailing at last." Based pretty much exclusively on an interview with new HSF President Thomas Fargo, the story paints a stunningly rosy picture of Superferry's last few weeks in operation: calm weather, new deals with commercial shippers and rental car companies and rising passenger loads—"between last Friday and Memorial Day, the ferry carried more than 5,500 passengers and 1,500 vehicles," Eagar wrote. There was even this little boost: "Fargo said that the Superferry can be profitable even when selling only half its 866 passenger seats." Unfortunately, Eager didn't dig into the numbers Fargo gave him, because even if that profitability statement is true, times are still very tough for the Superferry. According to a May 28 post on the Hawai`i Superferry Unofficial Blog (, those super Memorial Day passenger and vehicle numbers aren't all that super when you break them down. '[T]here were 14 one-way trips over that weekend," the blog wrote, "so they averaged: 393 people per one-way trip and 107 vehicles per one-way which is Enough to cover just their fuel costs for those 4 days, NOT the rest of their expenses." While definitely an improvement over what the ferry had been carrying, numbers like that—which remain below half capacity—are hardly smooth sailing.

If only our dailies would give us stories like this. But we shouldn't think we are the customers. The advertisers are their customers. The Superferry is a big enough customer that we shouldn't hold our breath for anything other than puff pieces. I hope they prove me wrong one day.

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