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Ferry Funding Approved

On June 5, the Maui County Council passed a bill to appropriate $105,000 to Sea Link of Hawaii, which operates the Molokai ferry and has reported losses in riders and funds over the past year.

With a contract still to be written for the funding, it will take about a month for Sea Link to receive the money, according to County Economic Development Director Teena Rasmussen. She added they’re still in the process of deciding whether the finding will be given all at once or in increments.

Since January, the ferry has been losing an average of $20,000-$25,000 a month, according Sea Link President and Senior Captain Dave Jung.

“[The funding] covers our losses and bought us some time,” said Jung. “We will run through the first part of August for sure.”

Jung said the company still plans to send an application this week to the Public Utilities Commission requesting to run the ferry on an “as needed basis.” Before submitting an application, however, the company is sending surveys out to the Molokai community asking whether residents prefer a limited schedule that would run based on ridership or the existing schedule that requires the ferry to run regardless of passenger numbers.

“Until we see a long-term regular subsidy we can’t run the full schedule,” Jung said.

Sea Link is proposing that a minimum of 30 passengers be required for the ferry to run. The company would be able to “cancel any voyage with a minimum 48-hour notice” if a trip has fewer than 30 riders, according to the survey. The subsidized daily commuter program would also be discontinued.