In response to a recent post about the Superferry, and my belief that it won’t be returning to Kauai, a reader ranted, er, commented:
why do you continue to cling to the Brad Parson's Fantasyland of wishful thinking that parades as a THEORY that the whole thing is a Military facade and will go away? Probably because you contributed to the THEORY (that's right THEORY THEORY THEORY THEORY THEORY).
Well, it may still be a theory, but it's one that continues to gain credence with the news that Austal USA, which built the Superferry, reportedly has won a $1.6 billion contract to build up to 10
Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV) for the Navy.
Citing U.S. Sen.
Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, as its source for the contract award, which has not been confirmed by the Navy or Austal, — Update: now confirmed — the Mobile Press-Register, reports:
Maritime industry analyst Tim Colton, of Florida consulting
firm Maritime Business Strategies LLC, said that if Austal
is indeed the winner, it is likely that the company's
experience and ability to tackle the work made its bid
superior. Australian parent Austal Ltd. is an expert at
building high-speed fast ferries, and the U.S. shipyard is
now putting finishing touches on the second of two such
vessels for Hawaii Superferry Inc.
The JHSV is a transport ship, not a combat vessel, and would
be similar to an Austal Ltd. ship leased by the military for
use by Marines in the western Pacific. The Navy is the
contracting agency for the JHSV program, though the Army
would also use the vessels.
As you may, or may not, recall, in Part VI of my “Lifting the Veil” series, I reported:
The navy, which is leading the program, released an RFP (Request for Proposal) for the JHSV contract last year, and the response period closed Sept. 10, 2007. One contractor will be selected this year to build all eight JHSVs. The navy is looking to pay $150 million for the lead ship, and $130 million for the other seven. Five will go to the Army, and the Navy will operate three for itself and the Marine Corps.
Its design specifications are based on lessons learned from leasing four high-speed commercial catamarans: the Venture, Spearhead, Swift and Westpac Express. The latter two are still in service. The Superferry is a near dead ringer for the Westpac Express, which also was built by Austal USA.
Then in final installment of that series, I noted:
And here comes the Superferry, which is .... proving itself by running at high speeds day after day, weather and harbor surges permitting, in some of the nation’s roughest waters.
As one source told me: “In an accelerated procurement environment, it would give [Congressional appropriations] committees great comfort in granting money for something up and running.”
In that same post, I quoted Terry O’Hallloran, who is no longer directly employed by HSF (but still works as a consultant), as saying the Superferry — the largest aluminum ship ever built in the United States, whose construction was documented by National Geographic — is no different than other fast ferries around the world.
“The idea that this vessel is unique….or has some kind of military connection is absolutely false,” he said.
Only time will tell if he’s telling the truth.
Since then, we’ve seen the second Superferry outfitted with ”national defense features” that would “enable the vessel to be chartered to the military if they so desire.” The company also announced it would put the second ferry to use elsewhere for at least a year, or until HSF can “develop this market” in the Islands.
And now here’s the news of Austal reportedly winning the contract to build the JHSV. As for what’s in it for HSF, well, let’s not forget that its chief investor is J.F. Lehman, and as I reported in Part VII:
Since its involvement with HSF, J.F. Lehman has made acquisitions that could support both JHSV and LCS construction contracts, including Elgar Electronics, which manufactures electrical power test and measurement equipment for the military and commercial uses, and Atlantic Inertial Systems, a leading niche supplier of highly-engineered guidance, stabilization and navigation products and systems for aircraft, weapons and land systems applications.
Most notably, J.F. Lehman also bought Atlantic Marine Holding Co., a leading provider of repair, overhaul and maintenance services for commercial seagoing vessels and U.S. Navy ships that is located adjacent to the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Ala. The company owns and operates another shipyard in Mobile, as well as one in Jacksonville, Fla., where it also leases a third facility at the Naval Station Mayport.
Time, it seems, is starting to tell.