Thursday, July 16, 2009


Two Hawaii Superferry vessels moving to Norfolk shipyard where Navy inspection is a possibility

by Larry Geller

According to the article Maritime Administration sends vessels to shipyard {Press Register [Alabama], 7/16/2009), the two Hawaii Superferry vessels Alakai and Huakai are being moved to a Norfolk, VA shipyard.

MARAD has been granted “physical custody” of the ships, according to the article, and is moving them “for insurance purposes” at the beginning of the hurricane season.

At Norfolk, the ships would be available to the Navy for inspection, although the article indicates MARAD did not comment on this.

Before talks among MARAD, Austal and Hawaii Superferry fell apart in June, analysts had expected the vessels to be retrofitted by Austal and chartered directly to the military.

[MARAD spokeswoman Susan] Clark said MARAD is now weighing all its options for the ferries, which include sale or charter.

She said the ferries are being moved "for insurance purposes" as hurricane season gets under way. She could not say if the Navy planned to look them over while they're in Norfolk.

Austal landed a potential $1.6 billion contract last fall to build up to 10 transport vessels for the Army and Navy based on its fast-ferry platform. The first vessel is not expected to be completed until 2011.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that the Pentagon would like to lease two high-speed ferries to fill the gap before the first of the JHSVs is built. When asked if the Hawaii Superferry vessels were candidates, a Navy acquisitions official told industry publication Defense News this week that they were. However, the vessels have "not been presented to the Navy as an opportunity" said Allison Stiller, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy.

"Those ships would require come modifications if we were to lease them."

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