Monday, April 12, 2010


Superferry—gone but not done with

by Larry Geller

In the days before Google I guess you could hide a ship the size of the Hawaii Superferry. But no more. Two significant articles today

Snipped from a long and interesting story describing how the ferry investors got their MARAD loan guarantee:

Hawaii Superferry received the only guarantee issued in 2005 and the last one until 2009. Disclosure records show the company lobbied Congress and MARAD in 2005 regarding ship financing and Title XI amid the program slow down.

The company hired Blank Rome LLP to push its interests in Washington; among the firm’s lobbyists that represented Hawaii Superferry was Joan Bondareff , who served as chief counsel and acting deputy administrator for MARAD during the Clinton administration . She’d also served as the majority counsel to the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries. Blank Rome reported receiving $20,000 in fees from Hawaii Superferry in 2005; the company got a taxpayer-guaranteed loan for $139 million to pay for construction and operation of a pair of high-tech catamarans. [Sunlight Foundation, Government agency with a history of taxpayer losses keeps at it, 4/12/2010]

There’s much more about MARAD, how it has failed to maintain its ships, and about the lobbying, in the story. Check it out.

A second story from the same source, Hawaii Superferry: An ulterior motive?, examines the possibility of a military objective for the ferries:

In March 2005, John F. Lehman, a former Navy Secretary during the Reagan administration and the company's principal investor, told Pacific Business News that there was a possibility the ferries would be used to move military cargo. In 2008, the former CEO and President of HSF, Inc., Thomas Fargo, said that was still a possibility, and the company’s lobbyists at Blank Rome LLP reported being paid $210,000, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, to lobby for inclusion in a Defense Department program that would pay to have improvements made to the Hawaii Superferry’s two high speed catamarans that would make them more militarily useful.

See the full articles for more and for live links to follow.

(Thanks to Dick Mayer for pointer to these stories)

Mentioning just for completeness, you may have seen any of several stories on the $12M Barge, Ramp Docked In Honolulu (KITV, 4/10/2010). It’s not clear what will happen to it, or whether it will continue to be a taxpayer expense until someone figures out what to do with the thing.

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