Friday, February 01, 2008


Superferry joke and no joke

by Larry Geller


Journalists are not supposed to use superlatives. Bloggers may, I believe. We have special dispensation. So I will:

I think activist Dick Mayer's email declaration, circulated today, is simply brilliant:

           WE HAD IT ALL WRONG.

The Superferry will NOT impact the Environment.
NO, the Environment is impacting the Superferry.

Please, do not laugh.

The State should be doing an EIS to describe all the impacts from Hawaii's devastating natural environment on the poor Superferry.
And we have yet to have a tsunami.

Only Judge Cardoza had it right. If the Superferry were allowed to operate, he said there is a likelihood of "irreparable harm"!


No joke

Yes, the Superferry is stuck in port again today, but the awful truth may be coming out. It wasn't (just) the weather that sidelined the ferry. In a KITV video report posted last night, it was reported that the damage was discovered on Monday. So it wasn't just the weather. Yet we didn't hear about the problems on Monday, when they were known to the ferry company.

Superferry officials maintained it has been out of service because of the weather. The company plans to resume service to Maui on Friday weather permitting.

An unanswerable question: if the repairs had been completed by Thursday, would the public ever have found out about the cracks? 

The Superferry confirmed inspections performed while the ship was dockside uncovered the surface cracks.

"The Coast Guard was notified Monday concerning hairline cracks to the Superferry's rudder housing," Chief Petty Officer Chad Saylor said.

[For you namephreaks, isn't it cool that the Coast Guard officer is named "Saylor?"]

Supposedly, the rudders are "rarely used," according to the video, but the Coast Guard insisted the repairs have to be made.

I, for one, would like to know, before considering a trip on any large capacity passenger ferry, whether it could be subject to damage by the seas it will likely encounter on the way. We're talking more than barf here, we're talking about something that might conceivably threaten lives.

I think we are entitled to full and early disclosure on the Superferry crack situation, even if it turns out to be nothing to worry about.

While there's no similarity between the construction of a modern ferry and much older ships, I shivered when I read about the cracks. I remembered reading that it was microcracks that caused the Titanic to break up. Yup, tiny little cracks may have sunk her. No modern ship would have rivet holes that develop cracks, I'm not saying there is any relationship (and there are other theories around the Titanic breakup also). But the shipyard that built the Titanic seems to have reinforced its sister ship (which sank in 1916), so they knew something they did not tell the public.

Superferry experts seem to clash with the Coast Guard in this segment of the KITV report:

Superferry officials declined on camera interviews, but said the vessel's two auxiliary rudders are rarely used. They said the rudders serve to make only slight course adjustments. The Superferry's four jet drives in the rear of the ship serve as the primary steering mechanisms, they said.

The Coast Guard said the rudders also serve to stabilize the ship.

"The investigator determined that the vessel wasn't in compliance due to these cracks," Saylor said. "These cracks need to be repaired before the vessel can sail safely."

Experts may differ. Remember, though, the old saw that experts designed the Titanic.

It's important to hear more from the Coast Guard on these cracks and the likelihood that the damage might repeat. Or spread. And perhaps regulators need to require that there be full and immediate disclosure from the ferry company.

[Side note:  a short story, perhaps based on a Superferry statement, appeared in this morning's Advertiser. It's moved one page forward from the obituaries, at least, though there are 20 more pages to go until page one. Compare the brevity of it to the TV coverage, which has included pics of the ferry underway and more detailed discussion of the rudder cracks.]

If the environment is a threat to the Superferry, it is a threat to its passengers, and we need to know and understand the risks. So thanks again to Dick Mayer for his thinking out of the box on this.


What nonsense. Aircraft have crack repairs at all major maintenance intervals. It is a fact of life with aluminum construction whether a ferry or an airplane.

The Titanic hit an iceberg - perhaps you missed the movie. Her sister the Olympic was torpedoed in WW1.

Schadenfreude oh schadenfreude...

I left a link, you can follow it to learn more about controversies around the Titanic and its construction. Google will also help.

The issue is how and why the ships broke up so quickly.

Also, though I see you're not concerned about cracks, apparently the Coast Guard is. The ferry hasn't even been out very much.

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