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Hawaii Superferries sold at auction for $25 million each

By Star-Advertiser Staff


The two high-speed catamarans built for Hawaii Superferry Inc. have been sold at auction in Virginia for $25 million each, The Virginian-Pilot reported today.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration bought the vessels.
The ferries, the Huakai and the Alakai, were auctioned off on the steps of U.S. District Court in Norfolk, the newspaper said, quoting the U.S. Marshals Service.
The Maritime Administration was owed more than $135.7 million by the bankrupt Hawaii Superferry because of loan guarantees it made to help build the ships.
The ferries, which are both berthed in a Norfolk, Va. shipyard, will remain in Norfolk for now, a Maritime Administration spokeswoman told the paper.
Hawaii Superferry is controlled by J.F. Lehman & Co., which was founded by former Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman. The private-equity firm lost its entire $85 million investment in Hawaii Superferry, Alex Harman, a partner at the firm, told Bloomberg News.
Hawaii Superferry was formed in 2002 to provide high-speed ferry service. State legislators in 2007 passed a law designed to allow the company to operate after a series of successful state court legal challenges. The Hawaii Supreme Court struck down the law, ruling that it was intended specifically to benefit a specific party, in violation of the state constitution.
The Superferry was shut down on March 16, 2009.
The ferries are each capable of carrying 866 passengers and 282 cars at speeds approaching 40 knots, or 46 mph, in the open ocean.
The company, which operated the Alakai between Oahu and Maui, filed for bankruptcy on May 30, 2009, and returned the ships to lenders.
The Maritime Administration, which held first priority mortgages, took possession of the vessels after they were abandoned by the company.
Austal USA, the Alabama shipbuilder that built the vessels, and the state of Hawaii, which provided $40 million in harbor improvements, held second and third mortgages.
Austal USA was owed $23 million.

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