Thursday, October 25, 2007


Garibaldi trying to squeak out of military uses of the Superferry

by Larry Geller

The planned military use of the Superferry has been no secret. Although testimony on the subject that was given over and over during yesterday's Senate hearing did not make it to the newspaper articles, articles have appeared earlier.

As part of today's testimony before House committees, John Garibaldi tried to squeak out of this.

Shouldn't we pay more attention to the military objectives this company has admitted? After all, they are seeking to have the Legislature overrule the courts and exempt them from environmental laws so they can operate the ferry. But they don't say that they need the ferry running so it can seek military contracts. Who knows what they are whispering to legislative leadership in secret, though.

David Shapiro wrote on October 16:

If the armed forces want to move vehicles from one island to another, they'll find a way to do it. So what if the Superferry provides another option? Ferry operators have never made it a secret that military transport is one of their capabilities and part of their business plan.

There have been several mentions in the papers which Google will find for you. Perhaps the most definitive was a March 28, 2005 article in Pacific Business news, Lehman joins Superferry project:

With Lehman's expertise, the Superferry plans to operate a Westpac Express, essentially to carry military equipment and ferry vehicles from Oahu to the Big Island on a daily basis.

At present, the military has to make shipment plans six months in advance to put them on a barge, said Tim Dick, president and chairman of Hawaii Superferry.

"The ferry will save the military dollars and take 25 percent of the time," Dick said.

This logistical plan will make it easier for soldiers to train when the Stryker Brigade comes to Hawaii. The brigade will be stationed on Oahu and conduct training exercises on the Big Island, Lehman said. "The Superferry is strong enough to take Stryker vehicles," he said.

Hawaii Superferry provided the Army with a cost analysis and expects to negotiate a long-term contract, Dick said.

Pretty clear, huh? They even provided the Army with a cost analysis.

Let's shift now to Garibaldi's responses to questioning by Gene Ward at today's legislative hearing. This sequence took place at about 2:09 p.m., if you're watching a recording of the hearing. Rep. Ward is obviously not asking hardball questions. Instead, he appears to be supporting the ferry by giving Garibaldi an opportunity to spout off. What follows is my rush transcript:

Rep. Ward: The second question came from yesterday's hearing in the Senate. Someone had said with a degree of authority that this was essentially a military vehicle. This is really a plot to have some kind of ... in fact, you were going to be carrying depleted uranium.

Did you want to debunk this or say something? Where does this stuff come from?

John Garibaldi: I would, ah, I take it there's people out there that are, you know, try to get some misinformation out to the public. We, our services, directed  at our residents and our businesses. In fact, depleted uranium would not be allowed because it's, of its very nature its, it wouldn't be allowed under hazmat-type  items under our tariffs. So military items are not, as they have been portrayed by the parties. We're principally, like an interisland airline, we're just [?] on the ocean traveling and giving people an opportunity to have an alternative means of transportation.

Ward: Thank you for that disclosure and thank you for giving the veterans and senior citizens of Hawaii a discount on those fares. Thank you Mr. Chair.

Is Garibaldi saying there will not be military contracts or military use of the Superferry? No, he said "principally", which could mean "in principal" or else it could mean "mainly."

As to the bogus question of depleted uranium, Rep. Ward knows well that bales of uranium will not be shipped next to family cars. The depleted uranium would be either part of ammunition or clinging to military vehicles or equipment.

He refers also to "tariffs." The tariff, as I understand it, is for passenger ferry service. Any military contracts Superferry may enter into would be separate.

I haven't had a chance to listen to all of Garibaldi's testimony yet. Maybe someone else pitched him a hardball. I just wanted you to notice this little interchange.

One of our enterprising reporters might ask the hardball question if no one else does. Something like, "will the Superferry be seeking military contracts should it receive an exemption to operate from the state government?"

If it does pile on military contracts, of course, behind a front of passenger service, we've all been had.



I know you've posted about this before, but it is worth remembering that their PUC filing specifically says, "The vessels might also be chartered to the military from time to time for movement of troops and equipment, mainly from Oahu to the Big Island for military exercises." The filing also says "In Hawaii, it is anticipated that an entire battalion will be able to be transported from Oahu to the Big Island on four trips at lower cost than the current transit time of 10-14 days using commercial airlines and military landing craft or chartered commercial barges. Exhibit 13 depicts a ferry in military use." Exhibit 13 shows images of Stryker vehicles and is captioned "Incoming Army Stryker units driving up demand for live-fire training exercises allowed only on Big Island."

But then when specifically asked on the Advertiser's Hot Seat "Does the Superferry have any connection to the Stryker Brigade?", Garibaldi replied: "Absolutely not!"

One issue is whether or not having them transport military is a good idea.

But the larger issue is, if it is an integral part of their business plan (and the numbers from Dick Mayer showed it would have to be) and something they are clearly planning on according to their own PUC filing, why does he now feel the need to deny it? Why is this something he needs to hide? And if he's lying about this, clearly contradicting himself, why should we trust him about anything?

I imagine Garibaldi just doesn't want to go there. After all, the issue has been raised in testimony by ferry opponents. To talk about it would be to give control of the issue to opponents. It would get him stuck in a dialogue about the ferry's military plans. It would cost him votes on this bill.

Would compliance with NEPA (the federal equivalent of Hawaii's Chapter 343) be a prerequisite to execution of a contract for Superferry to transport military vehicles to the Big Island and back? What were the grounds for dismissal of the earlier federal court challenge to this project?

Good questions... how to get answers?

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