Monday, February 08, 2010
by Larry Geller
The news is all over the place: Superferries could be back in Hawaii, either as military transport or as the state’s subsidized interisland ferry system.
The first was expected, the two ferries should be great as military transports, as long as they don’t encounter combat. The speculation all along was that Hawaii Superferry was a trial for military use of similar vessels.
Here’s what the Army announcement is about:
The Army intends to prepare a PEIS for the proposed stationing and operation of up to 12 JHSVs. The JHSV is a strategic transport vessel that is designed to support the rapid transport of Army Soldiers, other military personnel and equipment in the U.S. and abroad. The PEIS will assess the potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed stationing of JHSVs at the following military port locations: Virginia Tidewater area; San Diego, CA area; Seattle-Tacoma, WA area; Pearl Harbor, HI area; and Guam.
I’ve copied more complete information at the end of this post with thanks to Maui advocates for circulating it via email.
The interisland ferry bill (HB2667) is ineptly written, raising a number of questions about its authorship. It perpetuates a number of fictions about the prior service and why it failed, and about interisland shipping (which is a cargo, not a passenger service). On first reading, it appears to be as factually challenged as fiscally.
The state doesn’t have the money to keep its offices and schools open, and as indicated by testimony offered by Budget and Finance, the state can’t afford the expense of starting this boondoggle at this time. Georgina Kawamura was quite clear:
This bill also includes an unspecified general fund appropriation in Fiscal Year 2011 for startup and operations of the Hawaii State Ferry System. Due to the current fiscal condition of the State, any diversion of general funds from core services cannot be considered at this time.
The bill overlooks the almost daily loss (by outside estimates) experienced by the Hawaii Superferry company. Even on days when it sailed, it is unlikely that it recovered its operating expenses except perhaps during a very few peak periods. So the state would end up eating fuel and other expenses to keep the service running, if the ships used were comparable to the Alakai. The bill anticipates smaller vessels but is clueless as to their availability or suitability for interisland use in Hawaii.
Now, a municipal ferry service can be subsidized. For example, the Staten Island Ferry in New York City:
The Staten Island Ferry
The Staten Island Ferry provides 20 million people a year (60,000 passengers a day not including weekend days) with ferry service between St. George on Staten Island and Whitehall Street in lower Manhattan.
The ferry is the only non-vehicular mode of transportation between Staten Island and Manhattan. NYC DOT operates and maintains the nine vessel fleet as well as the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island, Whitehall Ferry Terminal in Manhattan, the City Island and Hart Island Facilities, The Battery Maritime Building and all floating dock building equipment.
The Staten Island Ferry is run by the City of New York for one pragmatic reason: To transport Staten Islanders to and from Manhattan. Yet, the 5 mile, 25 minute ride also provides a majestic view of New York Harbor and a no-hassle, even romantic, boat ride, for free! One guide book calls it "One of the world's greatest (and shortest) water voyages." [http://www.siferry.com/]
Yes, for free. It can be done. Hawaii could have its own shiny state-run fleet of interisland ferries (assuming the EISs all work out, of course). Of course it would cost… but never mind that, reality only complicates the dream.
The bill proposes “purchase or lease of the former Hawaii superferry vessels Alakai and Huakai or other ayailable [sic] suitable vessels to commence its operations” with some federal assistance. I wonder if committee chair Souki believes in Santa Claus also. If he could buy those two ships, it would doom the operation to potential daily operational loses.
And the Governor’s answer is already in, via her director of Budget and Finance.
The bill demonstrates its ignorance of interisland shipping and most likely its author is unaware of tariffs and regulation. In Hawaii it is the PUC, not the Legislature, that regulates common carriers. The Hawaii Superferry was tariffed for passenger service, which is why someone had to be in a truck to ferry goods across. HSF could not take on containers of cargo. It also doesn’t have the equipment to handle cargo, so its utility in emergencies is limited.
The Young Brothers testimony corrects that and plenty of other fiction in the bill.
The strangest thing to me is that the bill passed out of the House Transportation Committee unanimously.
The following is information on the Army plan that was circulated today via email.
- The Army intends to prepare a programmatic environmental impact statement in 2010 for the proposed stationing and operation of joint high speed vessels. The JHSV is a strategic transport vessel designed to support the rapid transport of military troops and equipment in the U.S. and abroad. All interested members of the public, including native communities and federally recognized Native American Tribes, Native Hawaiian groups, Guam Chamorro Groups, and federal, state, and local agencies are invited to participate in the scoping process for the preparation of this PEIS. Comments may be sent to the Public Affairs Office, U.S. Army Environmental Command, 5179 Hoadley Rd, Attn: IMAE-PA, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD 21010-5401; (410) 436-2556; fax (410) 436-1693;
- e-mail: APGR-USAECNEPA@conus.army.mil <APGR-USAECNEPA@conus.army.mil>
- Federal Register: Notice of Intent for the Preparation of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the Stationing and Operation of Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSVs), Federal Register /Vol. 75, No. 24 / Friday, February 5, 2010 /Notices
- Press Release: U.S. Army seeks public input on stationing Joint High Speed Vessels
I was rather hoping that Peace would be the focus when Obama was elected, but it appears that an increase in warmongering/postulating is the focus. I am appalled!
Thank you Larry for pointing out that some realized that the whole point of the Super Ferry was to run a prototype for military use. It was never about providing a service for islanders.... Just a look at their board of directors or whatever it was called) showed that almost all were military folks. Why would that group of folks be interested in running a ferry for the public good? Shucks, are most of us that gullible?