Mufi embraces Superferry

An intriguing part of Mufi Hannemann’s economic plan in his campaign for governor is a proposal to bring the Superferry back to Hawai’i.

He didn’t flesh out the idea, saying only, “Restore the Superferry. Do it right with environmental protections and an EIS. Don’t waste the taxpayers’ investment.”

As appealing as it may seem to supporters of the short-lived interisland ferry service that was taken down by environmental protests and adverse court rulings, it’s difficult to see it happening.

No private investors in their right minds would invest significantly in the venture after seeing the original Hawaii Superferry’s $300 million investment flushed down the toilet in a capricious legal and regulatory climate.

Public opposition in some quarters on Maui and Kaua’i seems as insurmountable as ever, and the Superferry failed to meet its passenger and vehicle traffic projections in the time it operated before dismantling the company  in bankruptcy proceedings.

A reborn Superferry would likely require heavy state involvement and steep public subsidies. So in essence, after running out of town the private operators who proposed to pay their own way, we’d come back with ferries floated on the backs of taxpayers.

Only in Hawai’i.

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19 Comments on “Mufi embraces Superferry”

  1. kailuaresident Says:

    The HSF was a great idea connected to the worst business plan in the history of Hawaii. Im glad someone is trying to bring it back and do the EIS….

  2. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    As an environmentalist, I was very supoprtive of the concept of the SuperFerry and wanted it to succeed, but the way that it was approved made me sick. I wish that there could have been some way to have done it right the first time.

  3. Scott Goold Says:

    Aloha ~
    Larry Geller wrote an interesting piece in Disappeared News about Mufi’s decision:

    … the news tells us that Mufi Hannemann is serious about trying to revive the Hawaii Superferry, with the same ships that couldn’t be economically successful the first time around … Maybe, like Sarah Palin or George Bush, he just doesn’t read the newspapers. The Associated Press revealed on 7/21/2010 that the Superferry was unable to pay its fees to the State fully nine months before it ultimately went bankrupt. Analyst Brad Parsons had estimated the costs of running such a large, fuel-hungry ship much earlier and published the information on his popular blog.

    There’s nothing environmentally friendly about this project. And, Geller concludes that maybe:

    Mufi knows the economic facts but is playing to the Oahu voter’s dreams of the Superferry’s return, and their belief that it was viable business killed by a bunch of Maui and Kauai tree huggers and whale worshippers.

    He lost my vote and I assume tens of thousands more on Kaua’i and Mau’i. I believe Mufi’s announcement not only sinks the Superferry but his campaign as well.


  4. charles Says:

    Follow the law. That generally works.

  5. It’s a ploy. Like a carney barker, Mufi’s trying to get folks to step up to his tent and focus on his overinflated, inflammatory huckstering.

    It reminds me of the old Dan Aykroyd sketch: The radio talk show host couldn’t get anyone angry enough to call into his right wing program, so he kept upping the ante. “I’m talking about registered communists, coming to your house, to kill your puppies!”

    I don’t know who’s funnier, Huey P Long or Mufi Hannemann. One thing’s certain. Hawaii’s governor race is gonna be the season’s E-ticket. Front row and center’s where I want to be.

  6. Scott Goold Says:

    Aloha ~
    From abcdef54321, blogging on the CNN article, “How the Gulf of Mexico became the nation’s ‘toilet bowl’ “, left a short prayer that can apply to many environmental and political issues today:

    Hear my prayer, oh Lord.

    Forgive me for having voted for corporation-loving, regulation-hating, government-despising Conservatives all my adult life. Forgive my neighbors and fellow southerners for doing the same oh these long fifty years. Forgive us for letting the ‘Southern Strategy’ work, wherein Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan deliberately used the racist feelings that many of us have to sway our votes. Forgive me for believing Conservative lies, when the truth was as obvious as the nose on my face. Forgive the Senators and Congressmen that I helped to elect. I knew that they were little, selfish, foolish, short-sighted, poorly-educated, and greedy men when I voted for them, and their evil ways were well known to all. I knew that there was not a speck of decency in any of them, but I voted for them anyway, due to my un-Christian hatred of pointy-headed, socialist-Communist-Lesbian-Marxist-Traitor-Liberals (may they be slowly turned on a spit over the hottest fires of Hell for Eternity.)

    Forgive me for not respecting the pollution-free, pristine, pure, virginal planet that You gave to us. Forgive us for over-fishing when we knew we were doing the wrong thing. Forgive us for dumping industrial and agricultural chemicals by thousands of tons into Your beautiful ocean. Forgive me for pretending that global warming doesn’t exist when I knew better in my heart. Forgive me for never once worrying about the damage we were doing to humankind’s paradise, our Eden, our Earth, which You made and gave to us as the perfect home. Forgive all of us for spitting into Your Holy Face for generations. We were too hateful and greedy to think straight.

    Protect us from the product of our stupidity and greed. There is no good reason for You to stop this oil leak because we are not worthy of Your help, but we hope You will stop it anyway.



  7. kailuaresident Says:
    It says the HSF would need to raise fares to 80 bucks and maintain ridership levels. That may have not been doable when Go was doing 35 dollar fares, but now the average flight is more then 80 dollars. So operating it with realistic fares and doing some other small things (like having parking available on Oahu) could make HSF viable. No ones going to make a fortune, but if it can be run at a small profit then great!

  8. Kolea Says:

    I am not opposed to a SuperFerry. I used to travel inter-island a great deal for work, know all the islands and wish it weren’t so damned expensive to visit them. But I am extremely skeptical about its commercial viability. Yes, the current high airfares make it possible for them to raise the price of a ticket. But Enough of the time the seas were too rough for passenger comfort, causing a significant number of passengers to refuse to use the return portion of their ticket.

    On a calm day, traveling inter-island by ship is breathtakingly beautiful. I have done it dozens of times and would recommend it to those who can afford to do so as a great way to sea the islands as, well, ISLANDS.

    Mufi is hoping to use this issue to garner support from those folks who feel they lost out by never using the SF while it was in service, as well as the Fox News types who hate environmentalists and “the courts.” The SF was a big fail before and if he were foolish enough to ttry to bring it back, it would be a big fail again.

    Actually, considering his criteria for evaluating the economics of the train system, I wouldn’t be surprised if he DID think a SuperFerry makes economic sense.

  9. Kolea Says:

    To be fair, Brad did his economic analysis when the price of crude oil was $129 a barrel. Today, it is $77 (just checked). So the current economic conditions might be more favorable for a SuperFerry.

    Until, of course, the price of oil shoots up again. If Israel or the US attacks Iran? What will be the impact of the Gulf oil crisis on the future price of oil?

    In aviation, there is a term, “sucker hole,” where a pilot sees a small clearing in the clouds which appears to be big enough to rise through safely. But once he gets in, the hole closes around him, creating hazardous conditions.

    If a private business, observing all state laws, decides to risk their own money on a re-launched SF and sail into what I think is a “sucker hole,” all power to them. But for a politician to risk public money on such a venture is wrong. Though, of course, their NEEDS might be served even if the public’s are not: campaign contributions, votes from uncritical citizens.

  10. Kolea Says:

    Those confident in Mufi’s ability to assess the economic feasibility of a project might reflect on these remarks from Larry Geller’s blog:

    But look, Mufi has a rather poor record at implementing water transportation so far, and a tolerance for high losses:

    TheBoat, Honolulu’s commuter ferry from Kalaeloa to Aloha Tower, gives West O’ahu residents an oceangoing alternative to increasingly clogged highways, for no more than $4 per round-trip ticket.

    What makes the service so cheap is that Honolulu taxpayers pay an additional $120 per roundtrip rider to cover the actual costs of operating TheBoat, according to a city study.

    The cost of carrying each passenger on TheBoat is about 62 times more than the cost of an average trip on TheBus. It is also significantly more expensive than comparable Mainland ferry services. [Honolulu Advertiser, High subsidies may scuttle Hawaii’s ferry, 2/15/2009]

  11. Mauibrad Says:

    Agree entirely with @Scott Goold and esp. @turk fontaine’s assessment.

    Re: @kailuaresident and $80 fares. Demand would fall, and you’d still be comparing a 3 hour ride to a 30 minute ride with the 3 hour ride having virtually assured seasickness, for only $20 less? The problem was always the ride in the channels. That’s what the watercooler talk was. People on Oahu knew that half to two-thirds of the year, the ride was turbulent. That was the fundamental problem with HSF.

    Re: @Kolea “Brad did his economic analysis when the price of crude oil was $129 a barrel.” I recalc’d it many times starting in the Fall 2007 through the Summer 2008, and the fuel price range during that whole time would have been a problem for the company. That includes current fuels prices. Only in the Winter 2008/2009 when fuel prices were half of what they are now would they not have been the problem, but then their demand was down to almost nothing. The problem with the fuel was that it was requiring anywhere from a quarter to a third of their capacity just to cover their fuel cost and another half of their capacity to cover the rest of their expenses, leaving only the top quarter of capacity to actually make money, which seldom happened.

    The fundamental reason why this was and would still be a problem is size, power (4 diesels), and amount of fuel cost consumed over the distances involved (about 100 miles) under the same revenue generating loads. The fact that the ride was often rough would always work against their ability to get the demand up high enough for those large vessels to cover their costs, much less make money at it.

    This is why it’s interesting that Mufi said “use the same vessels.” It shows he didn’t follow or understand what happened at all. Does he think he could just subsidize it like he did TheBoat. Or more likely, as @turk fontaine indicated above, this is really just Huey Long/Dan Aykroyd style politics to try and rile up Oahu voters.

    I was still open to voting for Hannemann until he spoke about this yesterday. The state deserves better than Hannemann. If it comes down to it, I’ll vote for Aiona over Hannemann.

  12. Michael Says:

    Airplane fuel.

  13. Grif Frost Says:


    I think the inter-island ferry system economics answer may be “cargo”.

    I drive the Saddle regularly and note regular large military deployments from Oahu to Pohakuloa Training Area and back to Oahu.

    With Senator Dan Inouye having the influence he does perhaps a military JV might make economic and political sense?

    I also believe Hawaii Island agriculture could benefit tremendously from a fast inter-island ferry system.

    Hawaii Island can produce 80% of the food needed in the State but 80% of the population is in Oahu…air transport is too costly and barge transport takes too long…

  14. Michael Says:

    Lawsuit filed to stop Hawaiian trash
    By Associated Press

    “SPOKANE, Wash. — A lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Spokane to prevent garbage from being shipped from Hawaii to a landfill in the Eastern Washington town of Roosevelt.

    The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by the Yakama Nation and several environmental groups against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which approved plans for shipments of plastic-wrapped bales of waste.

    The lawsuit seeks to prevent the garbage from coming to the Roosevelt landfill and to require a full environmental review. The Department of Agriculture had found the project did not pose a significant risk to the environment.”~By Associated Press

    Least worry now is the super ferry.
    Trash is here to stay on Oahu if said be.
    Where is this Hawaii getting sued when it
    is Oahus trash?
    hanneman can trash talk no more.
    Not to late to quit mufi!

  15. ccpp Says:

    from Michael:
    “SPOKANE, Wash. — A lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Spokane to prevent garbage from being shipped from Hawaii to a landfill in the Eastern Washington town of Roosevelt.

    I don’t blame the Yakima nation for filing a lawsuit to prohibit dumping of Hawaii’s trash in their own backyard. When there is talk of throwing Hawaii’s trash into the blazing hot lava on the Big Island, everyone is up and arms and consider that sacrilege to the Hawaiian goddess Pele. Given the Kilauea lava flow is aleady spewing out about 2,000 – 4,000 tons of sulfur dioxide every day (from Wikipedia) any other potential toxic chemicals released as a result of the vaporization of trash will be incredibly manini compared to the amount of sulfur dioxide naturally released by the volcano. From online sources, temperature of core lava is > 1050 degrees Centigrade. No bacteria, virus, spore, pathogen, solid object, etc would survive and almost all metals would melt at that temp.

    I think its accurate to say Mufi’s talk about resurrecting the Superferry is nothing more than a Super fairy tale meant to divert voters’ attention away from his pathetic track record regarding sewage, trash, construction projects, etc. as Mayor of Honolulu for 6 years.

  16. Michael Says:

    I would not want my trash
    inside of someone elses yard.

    The trash being in storage smells.
    Not as toxic as sulphur. Irritant.

  17. Mauibrad Says:

    Goofy Mufi’s legacy…improperly handled trash, wastewater, etc.

    @Michael Yes, compared to jet fuel. MDO and jet fuel are of comparable price per gallon, so they can be compared from a cost standpoint.

  18. Michael Says:

    If super ferry ever comes back
    they can used the stored wasted bundles
    as ballast for sailing on rough waters.
    Heavier the craft the lower it sails
    and ride should be smoother, though
    the speed will decrease.

    If it comes back Oahu will find ways to
    dump trash on outer Islands.
    What is made on Oahu should stay on Oahu.

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