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Former Superferry returns to ocean service in Canada

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STAR-ADVERTISER / JUNE 2007

The Hawaii Superferry Alakai made it’s way toward Pier 19 in the Honolulu Harbor in June 2007. The original Hawaii Superferry, the Alakai, will once again be taking civilian passengers and vehicles on commutes over the ocean — only this time it will be in Canada.

PORTLAND, Maine » The original Hawaii Superferry, the Alakai, will once again be taking civilian passengers and vehicles on commutes over the ocean — only this time it will be in Canada.

Mark MacDonald, president of the Canadian company Bay Ferries, said his company will operate the twin-hulled vessel under a lease agreement with its owner, the U.S. Navy.

The Alakai, now known as the USNS Puerto Rico, will provide high-speed ferry service between Maine and Nova Scotia.

The Navy took over the Alakai and its sister ship, the Huakai, in 2012 after the high-speed ferry service in Hawaii abruptly shut down in 2009.

The former Superferry can make the 212-mile trip in 5 1/2 hours. The previous ferry ship on the route, the Nova Star, which ended service in October, took 11 hours to make the crossing.

The vessel is similar in size and operation to a high-speed ferry that Bay Ferries operated on the same route from 2006 through 2009. That vessel was also called the CAT.

The Navy ship will be renamed the CAT.

“Yes, the CAT is back,” MacDonald said during a news conference today in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

In the one-year charter agreement signed with the Navy today, the Navy retains the right to take back the ship at any time. MacDonald said he doubts that will ever happen.

He said the Puerto Rico will be configured to carry between 700 and 750 passengers. It can carry 280 cars.

The service will begin on June 15, MacDonald said. It will depart Portland daily at 2:30 p.m. and arrive in Yarmouth at 9 p.m. After spending the night in Yarmouth, the ferry will depart for Maine at 8 a.m.

The Nova Scotia government will provide a subsidy of just under $24.9 million over two years, according to a 10-year agreement.

The Superferry is 349 feet long, considerably smaller than the 528-foot-long Nova Star. Its maximum speed is 40 mph, compared with the Nova Star’s 24.6 mph.

Experts in the ferry business say service on the route has a better chance of success with a smaller vessel that is less expensive to operate and can make the crossing faster.

High-speed ferries consume more fuel than conventional, single-hull ships, but fuel prices are low right now, said Gary Andrews, a ferry consultant based in England.

“More importantly, the crossing time gives it a unique selling point that the Nova Star didn’t have,” he said.

Bay Ferries is well-respected, knows the market and has connections in the tourism industry, all of which will be needed to help the company make up for the short notice before the season begins, said Darrell Bryan, CEO of Interferry, an international trade organization for the industry.

“It stands a far better chance of making it a successful operation,” he said.

Nova Scotia canceled its contract with Bay Ferries after the 2009 season because officials complained its requested $4.5 million annual subsidy was too high.

Its replacement, the Nova Star, was far more costly.

The Puerto Rico was built in Mobile, Alabama, in 2007 for Hawaii Superferry LLC and designed to operate in the Hawaiian islands. The federal government obtained the vessel after Hawaii Superferry went bankrupt in 2009.

Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent, and Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, first called the head of the Military Sealift Command in December and urged officials to work within their existing statutory and policy guidelines to give help making the surplus vessel available for lease.

The province spent $21.5 million for the service in the Nova Star’s first season in 2014. Last year, the government limited its subsidy to $9.8 million. The service’s financial troubles led a federal court to order the seizure of the Nova Star in October after several companies complained that they were owed more than $2.2 million.

The Huakai, now known as the USNS Guam, is being used in Guam and Okinawa to take Marines and other equipment around the Western Pacific.

45 responses to “Former Superferry returns to ocean service in Canada”

  1. serious says:

    What’s the poem: The ode of what could have been??? Or, if Linda had been D we would probably still have it!! Can’t have an R take credit!!

    • HIE says:

      Well if the “R” would’ve followed the law, we’d probably still have it. Don’t blame the Ds for the R’s incompetency and hubris!

      • dsl says:

        But the D’s let YB operate without an EIS…I guess YB’s campaign contributions helped to do in the SF?

        • HIE says:

          When you don’t have a cogent argument, you bring up a straw man version.

        • al_kiqaeda says:

          Superferry debacle = Republicans
          HART’s final cost = Democrats

        • dsl says:

          Whatever floats your boat HIE-YB got the free pass because of lobbying, SF got the boot because introduced and supported by the R Governor. The truth hurts – straws and all!

        • Boots says:

          al_kiqaeda, and years from now when people can get into town easily, Democrats will be the ones to thank. Have you been to Washington DC?

      • lee1957 says:

        Can’t believe Hawaii’s republicans rammed this thru a democrat legislature. PFM!

    • allie says:

      a botched opportunity.Lingle was a wretched governor and apparently is doing poorly in troubled Illinois.

      • Cleodog says:

        Linda took the hit for furlough Fridays when HSTA and the governor okayed the budget cutting measure. The Super Ferry was a shared blunder with shared responsibility for the mess. I’m happy for her being in Illinois where she does not have a bulls eye on her back. Are you going to say the Neal or David are improvements? I don’t think so. You have a short memory.

        • Carang_da_buggahz says:

          Amen.

        • Boots says:

          Sweet linda probably wasn’t all that bad but saying GW Bush was the best president ever showed a lack of intelligence.

        • Boots says:

          Sweet Linda made a mistake when she decided not to stand up for republican values. Republicans have traditional stood for the individual and their individual rights but sweet Linda felt that gays should not be allowed to marry. So much for the individual. You need big Government to tell you who you can and cannot marry. How sad. I had hopped that she would bring the republican party into the 21st century.

  2. goodday says:

    does it still say hawaii superferry on it?

  3. fiveo says:

    How sad but that is what happens when those in charge are incompetent and full of hubris. That was on Linda Lingle. The rail project, another serious financial disaster will be
    on the democrats. We here are doomed.

    • Boots says:

      umm you must be from Washington DC. That is what many said there prior to them building their mass transit system. I am glad they did. Traffic is a mess there but at least there is another way to get around the city.

      As a father, I appreciated the fact that my daughter didn’t need to buy a car when she went to college there.

  4. aomohoa says:

    Well this just sucks. I really want it back here in Hawaii where it belongs!

  5. torxman says:

    I really enjoyed driving my truck onto the Ferrry, and relaxing while traveling from Maui to Honolulu to visit family. No need to wait at a gate to board a plane, no luggage to carry or check in, and wait to pick up. No need to rent a car, just drive off the the Ferry and be on your way.

    • aomohoa says:

      Also take your boards and your dog:)

    • kiragirl says:

      No need a ride to and from the airport. Cheaper gas in Honolulu. Dress anyway you want. The ONLY negative was one trip to and one trip back whereas HA has many flights. Yep, we need a ferry system because of our topography and to reduce HA monopoly on interisland travel.

      • Carang_da_buggahz says:

        Washington State Ferries and BC Ferries have been in the business for decades and they provide a service which is indispensable for the residents and visitors of Washington and British Columbia. ONLY in Hawai’i, which probably has a more compelling case for inter-island ferry service, will you see the service driven away for the most petty and far-fetched of reasons, while other avenues of transport operate virtually unencumbered by the demands that were made on the SuperFerry. Once again, lolo rules the day in the ‘Nei.

  6. GSR808 says:

    What? They don’t need an EIS before running this “new” vessel? :p

  7. DAGSalenger says:

    No whales in Canada?

  8. cojef says:

    Blame games are silly. To revive such a project would be too costly now, but as usual only in backward Hawaii such things could be possible. Do it the dumb way.

  9. klastri says:

    Most people reading this story will probably miss the point that even with virtually no debt service cost, the service requires an annual government subsidy of $ millions per year. The business plan never made sense for Hawai’i. It could never have broken even financially – even if every trip left 75% loaded. It never have made sense in Hawai’i.

    • aomohoa says:

      But it sure was nice.

    • lespark says:

      Rather have the ferry than the rail.

    • FARKWARD says:

      The only intelligent and accurate comment herein and hereon…

    • iwanaknow says:

      Could the SA follow up a year from now and see how much in the red or black the ferry makes?

      • klastri says:

        You don’t need to wait a year. They know exactly how much the thing costs to run. They need $12 million a year to subsidize it in Canada. It would have been $25 million in Hawai’i – at least.

    • saywhatyouthink says:

      By your logic bus and rail service don’t make any sense either. Operational costs cannot be the only consideration by which you judge the feasibility of a public transportation system. The SF should have been a government owned service from the beginning. To be a remote island state and not have a ferry system is simply shortsighted. There’s third world countries with better infrastructure and public transportation systems than Hawaii. The bottom line is our elected politicians don’t represent the people anymore, they represent the special interest monopolies and unions who fund their campaigns.

      • klastri says:

        You are arguing for Socialism. How much government subsidy would you then pay Hawaiian Airlines and Young Brothers to even the playing field? No private business can compete against a socialist, tax-subsidized service.

  10. MoiLee says:

    C’mon Governor Ige, let’s bring back the Superferry!! You know,psst,psst I voted for you. Ha!ha!ha!….Let’s see if the Power of my Vote Really works!

  11. paintslinger says:

    I think its absolutely stupid that the government of Hawaii, as fouled up as it typically is, could not or would not work out a deal that gave the people of the Islands a ferry that is so obviously needed. Its despicable that politics rather than rational reasoning dominate this State and nothing can be accomplished in a timely , affordable manner. As long as I’m being long winded, I’d also like to comment on the condition of our roads. Our officials should be ashamed of themselves that there is so much confusion, corruption and ineptitude that we have to endure endlessly shabby roads filled with holes. Our entire state transportation dept. is filled with people who are inert and unimaginative when it comes to moving people from A to B.

  12. saywhatyouthink says:

    Ultimately, it was pressure from monopoly businesses like Hawaiian Air and YB that pay off the democrats and a few protesters on Kauai that killed the SF.

    • klastri says:

      You aren’t correct of course (shocking!) but this is the kind of thing you write. Kaua’i had nothing to do with the business failure. The business plan didn’t make sense from Day One. The boat used an average of 7,000 gallons of Diesel on each voyage. Even if it was 75% full on every trip, it would never have made enough money to break even.

    • Boots says:

      Not to mention the rent a car business. Would have been nice to just drive your own car on Maui instead of paying rip off fees to a rent a car company.

  13. bugadoj says:

    good please send the supper ferry back to hawaii

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