Superferry U-Turn?

SOURCE: Dick Mayer ( SUBHEAD: The Navy has obtained the two Superferrys. One of them will be headed back to the Pacific. By Robert McCabe on 27 January 2012 for the Virgibian-Pilot - ( Image above: U-Turn? No, the Alakai circles during sea trails after crossing Pacific to Hawaii in 2007. From ( The two Hawaiian superferries docked at Lamberts Point now belong to the Navy. The U.S. Department of Transportation transferred the vessels to the Navy on Jan. 20, through an interagency agreement, Lt. Cmdr. Alana Garas, a Navy spokeswoman, said in an email. Congress gave the Navy the OK late last year to spend up to $35 million to acquire the ferries - the Alakai and the Huakai - from the Maritime Administration, part of the Department of Transportation. The Navy gave the administration $35 million as part of the deal, a spokeswoman for the agency confirmed Wednesday, adding that the transaction technically was not a sale. Built to move cars and people among the islands of Hawaii, the ferries can cruise at 35 knots. Between 320 and 340 feet long, they each could carry 836 passengers and 282 cars. The Navy used the Huakai in relief efforts after the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010. Congressional approval for the funding, included in a provision in the Defense Authorization Act of 2012, stated that the ferries would become Defense Department sealift vessels. Merchant mariners employed by a private company under contract to the Navy's Military Sealift Command are aboard each vessel, the Navy said. The ferries will remain at Lamberts Point until they can be moved into shipyards for conversion for Defense Department use, Meghan Patrick, a spokeswoman with the Sealift Command, said in an email. The ferries will eventually be renamed by the Secretary of the Navy, Patrick said. One of the ferries is headed for the Pacific. The Navy had been interested in the ferries since July 2009, after a bankruptcy judge ruled that their owner - Hawaii Superferry Inc. - could abandon them to lenders owed nearly $159 million. The Maritime Administration, which guaranteed the loans, moved them to Norfolk, where it bought the vessels at an auction on Sept. 30, 2010, on the steps of Norfolk's federal courthouse. In June, the Maritime Administration put the two vessels up for sale on an "as is, where is" basis. See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Superferry vessels go to Navy 12/23/11 .

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