Hawaii Superferry back?

SOURCE: Ken Taylor (taylork021@Hawaii.rr.com) SUBHEAD: Yes, the legislature is considering repurchasing the two Superferrys and putting them back online.  

By Juan Wilson on 26 January 2011 - 

Image above: A military configuration for the JHSV that was developed in the Superferry project. From (http://www.motionmodels.com/ships/amphib/jhsv1.html).

The Hawaii legislature just won't let it go. They have a bill before them to reinstate Hawaii Superferry service. That bill would have the state purchase the two vessels that were repo-ed by the Maratine Administration when the Hawaii Superferry Corp (HSF) went belly up and left the state with a $40 milliom dollar hole.
The authority, as soon as practicable, shall engage in communications with the United States Department of Transportation and the United States Maritime Administration relating to federal funding assistance and the possible purchase or lease of the former Hawaii super ferry vessels Alakai and Huakai or other available suitable vessels to commence its operations. (from proposed bill below)
This bill needs to be flushed down the toilet. While I agree that passenger service by boat should be reinstated to the Hawaii, it should not include the JHSV (Joint High Speed Venture) ships developed by the Navy and sold to the the HSF.

Those ferries were too big, too fast and consumed too much fuel. In fact per-passenger they were consuming more fuel than their Hawaiian Air jet competition. Just as it was before commercial air travel, surface transportation will the future for interisland passenger service. It will simply be too expensive to operate jet planes on hops between islands.

 Before air travel there was robust passenger ship service between all the populated islands. Passage between Kauai and Oahu was an overnight trip enlivened with music and food aboard. Even today, conventional passenger vessels continue to carry tourists between the islands.

Some of those vessels are as big as a city block. There are issues with bunker fuel emissions fouling the harbors and there are questions about waste discharge while at dock, but these are problems that can be dealt with if Hawaii chose to increase interisland passenger travel. For me the fatal problems with the Hawaiian Superferry is that they were built too large for the needs for our islands. Austal, the builder, who have designed successful double and triple hulled boats for ferry service throughout the world, was convinced a smaller slower ferry was needed for Hawaii.

It was John Lehman (HSF chair) and his Navy cronies that were looking to design a ship for the military. So those were the specs for the Superferry. Not only was the Superferry too big, it was too fast. This made it a real and constant danger to whales (particularly on passage to and from cental Maui), and especially during night trips.

The size and speed of the vessels made them uneconomical to operate. That has not changed. Another fatal problem with the Superferry operation was the inclusion of passenger vehicles on board. This was a central issue with outer islands that anticipated heavy recreational and likely criminal activity from heavily populated Oahu to isolated and fragile outer islands.

Within the first days of operation to Maui pickup trucks with illegally harvested resources were found in the Superferry parking lot in Wailuku Harbor. Kauaians feared being overwhelmed by travellers from a nearby island with tens times the population. If there is a need to for diesel powered ferry it should travel at conventional passenger ships speeds and did not carry automobiles. I could welcome such service. However, I do not think that will be the long term solution for the future. Hawaii should be thinking farther ahead.

Large scale state of the art sailing catamarans are what we should be designing for the long haul. The Americans and British were amazed at the speed and performance of Hawaiian catamarans that had been built with stone-age technology. Imagine the ships we could build today to sail the Pacific in the future.

The State of Hawaii is made up of a chain of islands, six of which have major population centers. Unlike the forty-eight contiguous states, Hawaii does not have the benefit of being linked to other states through the federal interstate highway system or a network of intersecting state and local highways and roads.
With the exception of slow, time consuming interisland shipping and barge operations for the transportation of property between the islands, the principal link between the islands for the transportation of persons is air transportation. Presently, residents and visitors rely primarily on two interisland carriers and a few smaller commuter operations.
However, this reliance on air transportation may be misplaced.
With the exception of the island of Hawaii, each of the neighbor islands is served by only one airport, and each airport may be subjected to severe operational interruption in the event of a significant disaster, whether caused by nature or human activity. Even the Hickam Air Force Base-Honolulu international airport complex, with its location along the shoreline on Oahu, may be operationally shut down by such a disaster. By way of example, if the airport at Lihue, Kauai had been shut down operationally in the aftermath of Hurricane Iniki, it would have taken days, if not weeks, before any major aid and relief in the form of water, food, medical supplies, and rescue workers could have reached the island. Hawaii is too reliant on its present slow water carriers and air carriers in the event of a major disaster.
While the Hawaii Superferry operation had its shortcomings, a rocky start, and questionable financial forecast, it proved to be a very successful mode of transportation, for both persons and property, between the islands of Maui and Oahu. It was the missing link in the transportation system between the islands that is so essential for the health, safety, and well-being of the people of Hawaii.
The purpose of this measure is to establish the Hawaii state ferry system to provide that necessary and essential additional missing link for the carriage of persons and property between the islands of the State.
The Hawaii Revised Statutes is amended by adding a new chapter to be appropriately designated and to read as follows: "CHAPTER HAWAII STATE FERRY SYSTEM §
‑1 Definitions. As used in this chapter, unless the context indicates otherwise: "Authority" means the Hawaii state ferry system authority. "Department" means the department of transportation. "Director" means the director of transportation. "Ferry system" means the Hawaii state ferry system. "Vessel" means all manner of watercraft, used or capable of being used as a means of transporting persons or property on or in the waters of the State between the islands. "Waters of the State" has the same meaning as in section 200-23. §
‑2 Hawaii state ferry system authority; establishment, members. (a) There is established in the department the Hawaii state ferry system authority, which shall be a body corporate and a public instrumentality of the State, for the purpose of implementing this chapter. (b) The authority shall be composed of six public voting members and one ex officio voting member, provided that: (1) Public members shall be appointed by the governor as provided in section 26-34, except as otherwise provided by law; (2) One public member shall represent the city and county of Honolulu and each of the counties of Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai; (3) Two public members shall have knowledge, experience, and expertise in the area of maritime industry management, operations, and marketing; and (4) The director of transportation or a designated representative shall be an ex officio voting member and chairperson of the authority. §
‑3 Powers. (a) Except as otherwise limited by this chapter, the authority may: (1) Sue and be sued; (2) Have a seal and alter the same at pleasure; (3) Through the director, make and execute contracts and all other instruments necessary or convenient for the exercise of its powers and functions under this chapter; provided that the authority may enter into contracts and agreements for a period of up to five years, subject to the availability of funds; and provided further that the authority may enter into financing, lease, and similar agreements for the provisions of vessels for normal and usual commercial terms; (4) Make and alter bylaws for its organization and internal management; (5) Unless otherwise provided in this chapter, adopt rules in accordance with chapter 91 with respect to its projects, operations, properties, and facilities; (6) Through the director, represent the authority in communications with the governor and the legislature; (7) Through the director, provide for the appointment of officers, agents, and employees, subject to the approval of the authority, prescribing their duties and qualifications, and fixing their salaries, without regard to chapters 76 and 78; (8) Through the director, purchase supplies, equipment, or furniture; (9) Through the director, allocate the space or spaces that are to be occupied by the authority and appropriate staff; (10) Through the director, engage the services of consultants on a contractual basis for rendering professional and technical assistance and advice; (11) Procure insurance against any loss in connection with its property and other assets and operations in amounts and from insurers as it deems desirable; (12) Contract for or accept revenues, compensation, proceeds, and gifts or grants in any form from any public agency or any other source; (13) Develop, coordinate, and implement state policies and directions for safe transportation of persons and property between the islands, taking into account the economic, social, and physical impacts of its operations on the State and each of the counties; (14) Work to eliminate or reduce barriers to travel between the islands and provide a positive and competitive business environment, including coordinating with the department on issues affecting other water carriers and airlines and air route development; (15) Set and collect rents, fees, charges, or other payments for the lease, use, occupancy, or disposition of any facilities under its control, including wharves and terminals, without regard to chapter 91; (16) Notwithstanding chapter 171, acquire, lease as lessee or lessor, own, rent, hold, and dispose of the facilities in the exercise of its powers and the performance of its duties under this chapter; and (17) Acquire by purchase, lease, or otherwise, and develop, construct, operate, own, manage, repair, reconstruct, enlarge, or otherwise effectuate, either directly or through developers, any required facilities, including terminal facilities. (b) At minimum, the authority shall operate one high speed passenger and vehicular ferry vessel, with a minimum capacity of four hundred passengers and hundred vehicles, capable of operating at thirty knots or more, for the carriage of passengers and property between the major islands, and other small vessels, as needed, for service to the between the islands of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai and other routes. (c) The authority shall do any and all things necessary to carry out its purposes, to exercise the powers and responsibilities given in this chapter, and to perform other functions required or authorized by law. §
‑4 Initial operations. (a)

The authority, as soon as practicable, shall engage in communications with the United States Department of Transportation and the United States Maritime Administration relating to federal funding assistance and the possible purchase or lease of the former Hawaii super ferry vessels Alakai and Huakai or other available suitable vessels to commence its operations. (b) The authority shall have full access to all the waters of the State for the routes and schedules of the operations of the ferry system. (c) The authority shall have access on a priority basis into all harbors and small boat facilities operated by the department and the department of land and natural resources for discharging and receiving of passengers and property, wharfage, mooring, terminal, and other support facilities. (d) To the extent practicable, the authority shall use the former facilities used by the Hawaii Superferry for its ferry system operations, including but not limited to terminal facilities, ramps, moorage facilities, and equipment. §

‑5 Improvements and harbor facilities. Through the director, the authority shall have all the rights and powers afforded the department with regard to section 266-19.5 and sections 266-51 to 266-55. §
‑6 Common carrier. The authority shall have all the rights, obligations, and duties of a common carrier of persons and property in its ferry system operations, including the right to a certificate of public convenience and necessity; provided that the authority shall be subject to the provisions of chapters 269 and 271G. §
‑7 Rates, fares, and charges; Hawaii state ferry system special fund. (a) All rates, fares, charges, and other revenue collected by the authority in the operation of the ferry system, including but not limited to the carriage of persons and property and the lease of terminal areas shall be deposited into the Hawaii state ferry system special fund. (b) There is established the Hawaii state ferry system special fund, into which shall be deposited: (1) All rates, fares, charges, and revenue collected pursuant to subsection (a); (2) Appropriations by the legislature to the Hawaii state ferry system; (3) Gifts, grants, and other funds accepted by the authority; and (4) All interest and revenues or receipts derived by the authority from any project or project agreements. (b) Moneys in the Hawaii state ferry system special fund may be: (1) Placed in interest-bearing accounts; provided that the depository in which the money is deposited furnishes security under the same terms as required by section 38-3; or (2) Otherwise invested by the authority until the moneys may be needed; provided that the authority shall limit its investments to those listed in section 36-21. All interest accruing from the investment of these moneys shall be credited to the Hawaii state ferry system special fund. (c) Moneys in the Hawaii state ferry system special fund shall be used by the authority for the operations of the Hawaii state ferry system and for the purposes of this chapter. §
‑8 Rules. The authority shall adopt, amend, and repeal rules in accordance with chapter 91 to implement this chapter."

Chapter 268, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is repealed.
There is appropriated out of the general revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $ or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2011-2012 and the same sum or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2012-2013 for start up and operations of the Hawaii state ferry system. The sums appropriated shall be expended by the department of transportation for the purposes of this Act.
This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2011. INTRODUCED BY: _____________________________ Report Title: Transportation; Ferry System Description: Establishes the Hawaii state ferry system and the Hawaii state ferry system special fund for the operation of a system to ferry people and cargo between the islands. Makes appropriation. Effective 7/1/2011. The summary description of legislation appearing on this page is for informational purposes only and is not legislation or evidence of legislative intent.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: What are the Superferry's Worth? 8/22/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Mufi's Superferry Musings 8/18/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii Leg wants Superferry Back 4/8/09  


Anonymous said...


Stop this monster! Traffic is already bad on Kauai. Imagine even more cars on our roads!

Where's the Environmental Impact Report?


Russ said...

I think super ferry was the best thing to happen here in Hawaii we are still paying for it so why not bring it back and as for kauai residents this time will have an eis and hope next time you decide to swim infront of the ferry I hope they run you over!!!!!

Juan Wilson said...

Let me guess.

1) You either live on Oahu and are starting to smell the smoke of unsustainability for that island and would like the escape option of driving away, or...

2) You live on Kauai and are oblivious to Peak Oil and Peak Food, and think it would be cool to drive over to Oahu on H-4 (a.k.a. the Superferry)to shop 'til you drop at Ala Moana Mall.

In either case you will soon find that Hawaii is too broke to get the Superferrys back and won't even be able to afford the 6,000 gallons of diesel for each trip.

I'm all for ferry transport without cars (and hopefully with some sail).

And if you want to come to Kauai and help grow real food, I'll certainly welcome you.

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