Posted tagged ‘Hawaii Superferry’

Superferry still clouds Hawai‘i’s business image

June 27, 2011

I have to admit to a twinge of sadness when I read that the sorry saga of the Hawaii Superferry appears to be in its final act with the announcement by the U.S. Maritime Administration that it’s selling the two Superferry vessels, the Alakai and Huakai.

The federal agency ended up owning the ships when it had to eat $135 million in loan guarantees after the Hawai‘i Supreme Court ruled that a law exempting the Superferry from an environmental impact statement was unconstitutional.

Personally, I was looking forward to being able to use the Superferry to visit the neighbor islands again. I’ve seldom been able to go since I’ve been in a wheelchair because of a lack of ground transportation options, and being able to take my own van would have opened the state to me.

But beyond my admittedly narrow personal considerations, I felt the demise of the Superferry was a major loss to many local travelers and businesses who would have been at least a little bit out of the grip of the semi-monopoly airlines and shippers.

While there’s been a lot of finger-pointing as to who was to blame, it’s troubling that there’s been little thoughtful and objective consideration of all that went wrong and what changes we need to make to prevent such a debacle from happening again.

As we prepare to sell APEC delegates on the idea that Hawai‘i is a good place to do business, the Superferry is an elephant in the room that we’ve yet to adequately explain.


Mufi embraces Superferry

July 27, 2010

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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