Monday, February 25, 2008


"Blogosphere" makes tiny splash in Advertiser military report on Superferry

by Larry Geller

In a Advertiser column today, William Cole prints an article that could be interpreted as news. It's short, I'll quote it here for educational purposes.

It is possibly the first time that the issue of the Superferry owners' possible intent in bringing the service to Hawaii has been discussed (however briefly) in the paper, and one of the few occasions where views of the "blogosphere" are even mentioned. For "meat," though, better stick with the blogs, since this really is kind of short:

Here's the short piece, followed by my comments:

Army report says there's no plans to put Strykers aboard Superferry

Suspicion continues, mostly in the blogosphere, over supposed connections between the Hawaii Superferry and the Army's Stryker brigade, which is in Iraq.

In an environmental impact statement recommending that the Stryker brigade be permanently stationed in Hawai'i, the Army addressed the question of how the 19-ton armored vehicles would be moved to the Big Island for training.

The Army said its primary method of transporting the Strykers is by logistics support vessels operated by the Army.

If those aren't available, the Army said, it would use private contract vessels. Typically, those are barges, and the service said it is required to get bids from multiple vendors.

"The Army does not know if the Superferry would ever bid on such a contract or if it could even be configured to carry military equipment with the chains and bracing needed to transport Stryker vehicles," the service said. "No contract currently exists or is being formulated between the Army and the Superferry for transporting the (Stryker brigade)."

Reach William Cole at

First, thanks to Mr. Cole for involving the blogosphere. Really.

But the blogosphere has moved on. I think recent commentary recognizes that the Superferry may not have presented itself well if the military is watching. I wouldn't be surprised if military tongues aren't hanging out in anticipation of shipping anything on the ferry. And it's in drydock now, on an extended stay, not the most alluring place for a ship to attract future contracts.

The article actually says nothing about the future. That "no contract currently exists" is not news. That the source says "The Army does not know if the Superferry would ever bid on such a contract" isn't terribly useful. I don't know if they would bid, you don't know if they would bid, the military doesn't know if they would bid. That doesn't mean they will or won't bid! Governor LIngle could surprise us and bid on a contract.

We just don't know if anyone (outside of the Superferry company itself, see below) was previously looking seriously at the ferry for Stryker transport and has given up based on current difficulties or, of course, if the speculation was completely wrong.

As I said, the blogosphere has moved on. In particular, Joan Conrow has written several articles for her own blog and also one for the Honolulu Weekly on the role the Superferry may be playing in the Navy's selection of its Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). In the Weekly article Joan refers also to a couple of Pacific Business News articles:

[Hawaii Superferry chairman John F.] Lehman already has spoken publicly about the company’s plans to run military equipment and personnel from O‘ahu to the Big Island in much the same manner that the Westpac Express ferry serves the Marine Corps in the Western Pacific. The logistical plan was touted as a faster and cheaper way for soldiers stationed on O‘ahu to train on the Big Island when the Stryker Brigade comes to Hawai‘i. “The Superferry is strong enough to take Stryker vehicles,” Lehman told Pacific Business News (PBN) in March 2005. “HSF provided the Army with a cost analysis and expects to negotiate a long-term contract,” PBN reported. On Jan. 7 of this year, HSF carried Hawai‘i National Guard heavy equipment to Maui for removal of storm debris.

So we can't be too quick to dismiss the "blogosphere's" speculation on the Strykers, because it seems the concept has been put forth by the company itself, according to the PBN report.

(Note: I couldn't find this article when googling the Honolulu Advertiser website from Google's news page. It seems that it's a column, not a news article, and the columnists are are a different subdomain than the news. Anyway, now I've found the secret.)

(If you're looking for military news, as I was, go to Local News, then pull down the menu for Military News. You'll be taken to a section with items from 2006 and 2004. It looks like previous editor Saundra Keyes started a project that hasn't been continued. An article by Keyes reveals that columnist Cole was one of two reporters embedded with the military back in 2004.

I recall thinking, at the time, that regardless of how one feels about "embedded journalism," the paper was willing to make a substantial investment to get the news. Would Gannett do that today?)

I'll post some catchup on ferry repairs shortly.


Did they change their mind?

Here is the direct quote from The Pacific Business News, March 28th, 2005.

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.

Regarding the Strykers and Superferry, Cole doesn't need to speculate. In addition to the quotes in the PBN, it is also in the Hawaii state law. Mr. Cole should do his research better. I reposted the following on Dec. 9th:

HI Superferry: Current Unanswered Questions?‏

Here you go Scott, I had a little difficulty finding them at first:

Posted by MauiBrad at 11:15 AM Dec. 9, 2007

It isn't just "suspicion... mostly in the blogosphere, over supposed connections" -- remember, it was specifically in the SF's PUC filing!

As per your previous post, 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." And "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."

Why is it so hard for reporters to find this stuff, especially when they are citing the blogs that have dug it up for them.

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