QUESTION: What ever happened to Hawaii Superferry’s two vessels that were to provide passenger and freight service among the four main Hawaiian Islands, but left following the company’s bankruptcy last year?
ANSWER: The Hawaii Superferry’s two decommissioned vessels — the Alakai and Huakai — are sitting in a Norfolk, Va., shipyard waiting to be sold in a court-ordered auction more than a year after ferry operators filed for bankruptcy.
The two catamarans are in the possession of the U.S. Maritime Administration — a federal agency that provided a $140 million loan to Hawaii Superferry in 2005 — and will be sold to the highest bidder once the bankruptcy court that is handling the case sets an auction date. Agency officials said they expect the court to set a sale date soon.
The vessels are 349-foot double-hulled catamarans that can carry up to 866 passengers and 282 automobiles.
The Alakai was constructed by manufacturer Austal at its shipyard in Mobile, Ala., and arrived in Hawaii in June 2007. The ship made its maiden voyage between Honolulu and Kahului in August 2007, and navigated choppy political and financial waters before the company went bankrupt in May 2009.
The Huakai was completed in September 2008, but was not delivered to Hawaii because of the operator’s deteriorating finances and then-uncertain future.
After Hawaii Superferry filed for bankruptcy in a Delaware court last year, the vessels were turned over to the Maritime Administration. In January, both ships were sent to Haiti to help with the agency’s earthquake relief efforts.
The Hawaii Superferry issue resurfaced Monday when gubernatorial candidate Mufi Hannemann said he wanted to revive the ferry service as part of a 10-point plan to boost Hawaii’s economy. Former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, also running in the Democratic primary, also supports an interisland ferry system, but said the venture requires support from the military or state.
In April, the Legislature voted to kill a bill that would have commissioned a study on the establishment of a state-subsidized ferry system.
The environmental impact statement for ferry operations that was mandated by a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling in March 2009 is scheduled to be completed within the next six months. Ferry officials claimed that the high court’s decision to ground the vessel while the lengthy environmental review was being completed forced the company into bankruptcy.