Thursday, March 19, 2009
A quick four-minute more-of-the-same
by Larry Geller
Adm. Thomas Fargo faced the cameras this morning at a 6:30 a.m. news conference. His prepared statements were very short—less than four minutes, after which he entertained questions.
The press will cover this well enough, so I’ll add just a few observations.
To start with, Adm. Fargo continued to use booking numbers, which are higher than ridership. There was no comment on whether the ridership was adequate to turn a profit, which would have to enter into the decisionmaking process of any company intent on succeeding over the long term as a passenger ferry service.
He spoke next about the businesses that have lost their services, such as Loves Bakery. Let’s keep in mind that the Superferry was tariffed as a passenger service, not as a freight service.
Longs Loves can carry bread on their truck only because it is a vehicle accompanied by a driver. That doesn’t make the loss of the service any less real to those businesses, but there were and are alternatives. \
What is being lost is an interisland passenger ferry service that might have been running today had laws been complied with and an appropriate ship selected rather than the oversized Alakai. The question about whether the ship could also have carried cargo under a separate tariff remains unanswered.
Fargo stated that they operated every day and had a successful winter. This is an obvious misstatement. The ship was in drydock in February and not operating for that period. As to success, will the mainstream press address the numbers that were in yesterday’s article right here? The numbers present a far different picture. The company stated what it needed to break even, and it does not look like they have done that long-term, as far as one can tell from external estimates.
The plan apparently is to move the ship from Hawaii. I hope that the question of ongoing harbor fees can be addressed first. Once the ship leaves Hawaii, which could be as early as tonight, the chances of recovering anything for those fees diminishes greatly. Ship arrests are common, and in this economy we should be prepared to collect any fees due rather than pass them on to other harbor users, who after all, have to deal with remaining in business here in tough economic times.