Wednesday, February 27, 2008


No bidders for $4.5 million ferry on eBay(!)

by Larry Geller

In a November article I mentioned that an old New York joke

"Yes, we lose money on every sale, but we make it up in volume" is no stranger to Hawaii.

Of course, I'm grateful that low fares make it possible to fly to the Big Island to visit the volcano again. But how long can airlines (or ferries) keep operating at a loss?

Are they "making it up on volume?" Impossible, of course. It's a mystery to me how these transportation companies can carry on without making money! Someone please explain.

The Superferry is still in drydock, not making any money at all. Of course, necessary repairs must be completed. Even on the few days it was operating, passenger counts, as recorded occasionally by volunteers, seemed too low to pay for the cost of running it, much less bring in a profit. Protests seem less important, for the moment, although threats like invasive species and whale hits are no less real. Why? Maybe because it's felt that the ferry may just self-destruct. Not physically, I mean economically.

And what about daily tug charges, the cost of the special-purpose barge in Maui, and other expenses? The state or some combination of taxpayers and harbor users are in the hole for plenty also.

So far, anyway, this doesn't look like a huge success to me.

So how long will it stay afloat? Should legislators be thinking now of how a viable interisland ferry service might be run, what it would look like, and how to put it in place? Should they wait for ferry failure before opening those discussions, or should they begin sooner, perhaps by holding hearings?

Last year I wrote about the failure of a ferry service in Learning about ferries- the Rochester ferry failure. Here's another failure, though this isn't a car ferry (snippet):

SEATTLE - An online auction for the high-speed passenger ferry MV Chinook has ended without even one bid.

The Washington state Transportation Department was asking at least $4.5 million for the vessel, but the auction ended Sunday night on eBay without any interest.

[ No one bids for $4.5 million ferry - Yahoo! News ]

LOL Can you imagine the meeting in Washington State at which someone suggested (meekly? laughingly?) Well, let's try to sell it on eBay! Silence? Laughter? Loud clapping? I'd really love to have been there.

Ferry services can and do fail. This is why I suggest that the state review the current situation. Could this ferry also be headed for eBay one day, or might there be a better way to do an interisland ferry service? (After completing an EIS, of course.)


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I think it was stupid to try and sell a ferry on Ebay. That is not the appropriate market forum to try and sell a piece of equipment like that. They should have tried to sell it in a commercial maritime market forum, classified, etc. Sounds like the WA state DOT isn't any better than ours. Aloha, Brad

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