Monday, October 15, 2007

Musings: Ferry Fiascos

It was dark, cool, wet, and quiet enough to hear the horses grazing when I passed by their pasture this morning. As I walked past various plants in bloom, I was treated to little gifts of fragrance, returning home with a fistful of yellow ginger and one tucked behind my ear.

A friend stopped by last night with a few "buoy rats” – small koshibi and kawakawa — and cleaned and cut them for me, braving mosquitoes in the back yard. I buried the carcasses in the taro patch — kaukau for the kalo.

Speaking of gifts, I’m grateful for the intelligent, concerned people reading this blog. Mahalo for your thoughtful, informative comments, especially on the “At Any Cost” post.

A Vancouver, B.C., resident sent an email to all of Hawaii’s legislators, advising them he’d been approached for support by Hawaii Superferry, but wanted instead to warn local lawmakers of his own government’s disastrous venture into fast ferries.

I did a little research and found numerous articles about the fiasco, including this report from Alberta’s Business Edge magazine: “The U.S.-based Washington Marine Group [owned by Montana businessman Dennis R.Washington], built the [three] PacifiCats at a cost of $454 million for the former NDP provincial government, but wound up buying them back from the Liberal regime in 2003 for only $19.4 million.

The fast ferries were mothballed after complaints about cost overruns, excess fuel consumption, cramped seating, and damage to waterfront properties and shorelines caused by the vessels' large wakes.”

Vancouver isn’t the only place that had fast ferry trouble. The city of Rochester, NY, bailed out Canadian American Transportation Systems, which provided service between Rochester and Toronto, after it “showed a big loss for the big boat and closed shop early,” according to a three-part chronicle on the ensuing political, legal and financial woes posted in a political blog for that region.

Interestingly, Stephen Hobson, Chairman of NSC (West Indies) Limited, last year proposed starting fast ferry service between Barbados and neighboring islands, according to a report on

His arguments to justify the service sounded strikingly familiar: the ferries would help farmers get their fruits to market more quickly, and allow Caribbean folks to attend cricket games on neighboring islands at prices lower than those charged by the airlines.

All he wanted in return from the government “is the provision of the proper regulatory structure and necessary physical facilities.”

Despite his stated intent to have the service up and running in time for the 2007 Cricket World Cup, the project never materialized.

These scenarios could be flukes in the ferry world, or cautionary red flags that we might want to consider. Of course, it’s hard to know, without a full Environmental Impact Statement, whether Hawaii Superferry is a true gift, or a Trojan horse.

1 comment:

Abby and Owen said...

Hey joan, it's owen. I haven't read all your blog entries yet, but mom told me a little bit about what's going on there. It's interesting to read about because here in the Philippines we ride ferries all the time. You kind of have to considering the country is made up of 7,000 islands. Anyway, I wonder how big the boats are that are being proposed there? I assume they're the kind of ferry that can carry cars and whatnot because Americans can't live without their cars. The fast ferries here look a lot like a large yacth, and only carry passengers, I think usually about 300 at a time or so, so the boats are really small and don't make much impact at all.

I don't think a passenger only boat would work there, but if people are willing to fly without their cars, maybe they'd be willing to do the same with a much smaller boat that would have less of an impact on the environment?