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Bill will allow Superferries to become Navy vessels


NORFOLK, Va. » The Navy has received congressional approval to buy two high-speed superferries from the U.S. Maritime Administration.

The recently approved defense authorization bill allows the Navy to spend up to $35 million to buy the Huakai and the Alakai. The measure is awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature.

The Maritime Administration took custody of the superferries in 2009 after a bankruptcy judge ruled that the previous owner, Hawaii Superferry, could abandon them to lenders. The Maritime Administration moved the ships from Hawaii to Norfolk and bought them at an auction in 2010.

Maritime Administration spokeswoman Cheron Wicker told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper that a date for transferring the superferries to the Navy hasn’t been set.

The superferries, ranging in length from 320 to 340 feet, have a cruising speed of 35 knots and can carry 836 passengers and 282 cars.

Hawaii Superferry operated between Oahu and Maui from December 2007 to March 2009. The operation encountered resistance from some residents and eventually the state courts, which ruled that the project lacked adequate environmental review.

The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in March 2009 that an environmental exemption given to the Hawaii Superferry by the state Legislature was unconstitutional because it provided special legislation for a specific business.

The decision led to the shutdown of the Hawaii Superferry operations between Honolulu and Maui.

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