Saturday, December 29, 2007

Musings: Juggling Numbers

The half-moon shone feebly through the clouds when Koko and I set out this morning, and no stars were visible at all. It’s been a while since I’ve seen either them, or Waialeale.

Aside from the hunting dogs that were going off somewhere in the valley, it was a quiet Saturday morning, ideal for lounging in bed. But I dragged myself up and out because I’ve got an early interview in Lihue today, followed by an official break from work until Jan. 2, 2008. Yippee!

Superferry part-timers are also getting a break from work, although possibly not a dsired one, as high winds and seas idle the boat for yet another day, the Star-Bulletin reports.

Once again, the accounts of passenger numbers are screwy, with the Bulletin reporting today: [Superferry business development director Terry] O'Halloran estimated that ridership for today [Saturday] was "significantly lower" than normal. About 95 people and 40 vehicles were scheduled for the Oahu-Maui passage. About 20 people and 20 cars were booked for the Maui-Oahu trip.

The article continues: Yesterday's [Friday’s] cancellation affected about 240 passengers and 80 vehicles each way. O'Halloran said today's [Saturday’s] numbers reflect the response of passengers noticing the travel alerts on the company's Web site and changing their travel dates.

Meanwhile, today’s Advertiser story reports: Company officials said fewer than 100 passengers were booked for travel yesterday [Friday] and today [Saturday].

But yesterday, in a news brief updated at 3:59 p.m., the Advertiser reported: Approximately 160 passengers were booked for yesterday's [Thursday’s] sailings and 480 had reservations for today [Friday], according to Terry O'Halloran, director of business development for Hawaii Superferry.

It all gets me wondering, what's da scoop? And don't newspapers notice the discrepancies in their own pubished reports?

More sobering to the state as a whole than squirrely Superferry stats is another report in today’s Star-Bulletin on the growing number of bankruptcies in Hawaii.

It seems the high cost of living the American dream in Hawaii — coupled with outrageous housing prices, rising energy costs and a slowing real estate-dependent economy — is catching up with Islanders. I pumped gas in Kilauea yesterday, and it was a whopping $3.74 a gallon. Wow. Makes me glad for my fuel-efficient Hyundai.

Bankruptcies are up 44 percent over last year, the article reports, and 2008 is expected to see even more filings.

The article continues:

“Hawaii attorneys are beginning to file more cases related to properties in foreclosure, though consumer bankruptcy attorney Greg Dunn said the worst is yet to come next year and in 2009, as the state begins to feel the effects of the credit crunch.

“Honolulu bankruptcy attorney Bradley Tamm, who has seen calls to his office double in recent months compared with last year, expects bankruptcy cases to climb to the historical norm of about 3,000 cases per year by the end of 2008 and increase even more in 2009, as the mortgage crisis hits Hawaii.

"’The only thing keeping Hawaii from being hit right now is the fact that Hawaii still has positive employment’ he said. ‘People are not doing well. They're hanging on, but 2008 is going to be a busy year.’

“Many of the weaker players in the market such as small retailers, mom-and-pop restaurants and underfinanced developers will likely close in the next few years, therefore driving up the number of bankruptcies, he said.

"’These are the harbingers of bad times,’ Tamm said. ‘It's not light at the end of the tunnel; it's the headlights of a freight train coming. We're going to get hit.’"

But apparently nobody’s told consumers it's time to get off the tracks. Instead, the news has been full of stories about folks buying up a storm in the post-Christmas sales.

11 comments:

Larry said...

Bloggers don't take full-page ads from department stores or supermarkets. So we can call it like we see it.

Not everyone will be surprised. Many seniors, those with disabilities, and others on fixed incomes are already feeling the crunch and have to choose between food and medicine. Our state government doesn't care. For example, the administration has refused to obey the law requiring them to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices. It goes on and on. Nothing has been done to provide the large number of affordable housing units that will be needed as people lose the ability to pay high rents.

It may not be pretty.

But will the newspapers write that? Will letters to the editor even get through? So far, no.

Buy, buy, buy. No gas cap, more tax for trains. Higher property tax. Bottle tax. Over here, Mufi wants to charge for garbage collection. It costs more to do a laundry, buy lunch, pay for food.

Reporters may be afraid to cover the economic situation. They could lose their jobs. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

Since our mayor has shut down vacation rentals MM$ speculative ocean front homes used for that purpose are going on the market daily and NOT selling.Double trouble for Maui. Not a surprise when you consider the inflated prices and the fact that credit markets are barely functioning even with the massive cash injections by central bankers worldwide(500 BILLION last week in Europe) and the Billion $ stock purchases by sovereign funds (Dubai etc.)of US Banks(Bank of America). Cash is king and it is being held very closely. It's bloody scary and will get worse before it gets better. As Larry says and I believe, the excessive greed of Wall St.(CDOs) and fund managers will hurt the poorest among us the most.

As you know,consumer spending is responsible for 2/3 of our GDP so if consuming America gets off the spending track we are in deep kimchee. So far the rate of bankruptcies is low in Hawaii and employment high compared to other states but that will change next year when more US flaky loans( an estimated 1/2 trillion $ worth ) reset to higher rates. And we always lag mainland markets anyway. Have not seen a figure for how many of those loans are on Hawaiian property or how many are up-side-down,(where owners own more than the property is worth. Since values have not declined too steeply so far so good. I think it was Business Week that described this mortgage mess as a ponzee scheme. It only took two failing hedge funds at Bear Stearns to topple this worldwide house of greed. And next year being an election year God only knows what Cheney/Bush will do to prop up the markets.

MauiBrad said...

Joan, nice focus on the numbers. I think the only reason the press are asking and HSF are releasing reservation counts is because it has been raised as an issue. What exactly the numbers are from HSF is not as important as how low they are. HSF is trying to report reservation numbers that would cover their operating expenses, but that is the best they seem to imply and that still does not cover all of their costs. It is an issue because their costs have become public, and so therefore the public can legitimately question the viability of their business. Aloha, Brad

MauiBrad said...

Here's some more numbers for you. These were in Saturday's Maui News:

"The ferry’s canceled trips affected 450 passengers Wednesday, about 160 Thursday and 480 Friday. Today, the canceled voyage meant a little more than 100 people were not coming to Maui, and approximately 60 would not travel to Honolulu, O’Halloran said."

Just to reinterate the context of the above reactive wishful numbers, the company has to transport 220 cars and 460 people in total for the day to just cover fuel expense for one round trip.

Aloha, Brad

Anonymous said...

Well, I was in our Kona Walmart store buying cat food this morning and I sure didn't see large crowds trying to take advantage of any post Christmas sales. We already had one sad story in the newspaper about a family who couldn't afford their new home anymore because of the adjustable rate interest on their mortgage.

Larry said...

I wonder if the HSF counts are accurate. Their computer refused to book me on the Maui --> Oahu run today. It kept changing 12/30 to 12/31. It doesn't know the difference between a.m. and p.m. Can it count passengers? Who knows?

They also say they are doing outreach. Count the number of times.

The passenger counts that Brad released seem to contradict the HSF-released data so carefully stenographed (if there is such a word) by the newspapers.

I just don't know what to believe. Passenger counts and exit interviews of passenger experience sound to me like "data", but anything else might be "spin".

David said...

Brad,

The load you mention would generate $41,755. At $3.80 per gallon that means you calculate the ferry will burn almost 11,000 gallons of fuel for the 210 mile round trip. Does it really burn that much fuel?

Thanks,

David

David said...

Brad,

After doing a little further research I answered my own question to you, I see the superferry burns about 6600 gallons of fuel each way. I also see the price of marine fuel is about $2.10 a gallon rather than the $3.80 I guessed it to be. So costs are about $27,700 per round trip. (which matches your estimate on your blog)

But that raises another question. You've stated here and on your blog that it takes 460 people and 220 cars for the day just to cover fuel costs. Those numbers don't add up.

People 460 x 39 = 17940
Cars 220 x 55 = 12100
Total 30040
39% fuel surcharge + 11715
Total Revenue 41755

So at the loads you mention more than $14000 is generated over fuel costs.

David

MauiBrad said...

David,

I was not calculating a fuel surcharge because they were not charging one under the $29 fare, but you may be right under the new $39 fare there may be a surcharge of revenue to be calculated now. Thanks, that will be my next project to check out. Still, they have all the fixed costs I was generously leaving out.

Aloha, Brad

MauiBrad said...

David,

I just did a test booking on the HSF and they are still not showing an actual billing price indication of charging the prior 39% fuel surcharge. They appear to be still waiving it, so my calculations of their losses and load levels to cover fuel cost are all still correct.

Mahalo, Brad
BTW, Check out the new Barf Index.

David said...

Thanks Brad,

If they're waving the surcharge, then your numbers are accurate. I read somewhere their fixed costs are about $650,000 a week or almost $93,000 per day.

As for your barf index, I was up at Kahakuloa Head today and watched the superferry sail past. Even though it was probably 2 miles offshore it's up and down movement was VERY easy to see. I remember thinking "I'm glad I'm not on it today!"

Thanks for checking.

Aloha

David