During their show this afternoon on KKCR, Katy Rose and Jimmy Trujillo interviewed three guests who offered some interesting insights into the Superferry, most notably the damage that sent it into drydock early.
Wayne Jenkins, a welder employed by Austal USA, which built the Alakai for Hawaii Superferry, said he “had problems with the way some of the welds were being done on the boat.”
He pointed these out to his supervisors, but was told the welds didn’t need to look good, because they’d be covered with insulation. However, he said, “those little cracks continue to expand.”
When those hairline cracks are subjected to stress, Jenkins said, “they will crack all the way through,” causing leaks, and that’s apparently what happened to the Alakai.
Jenkins said Hawaii workers poured concrete into the cracks to stop the leaks and then continued to operate the ferry for another week before Austal crews were sent over from Mobile, Ala. to work on the Alakai.
He said if the cracks widened sufficiently, they could allow in enough water “to sink the ship.”
Jenkins said he does not think the Austal work crews were in Hawaii long enough “to repair it the way they should. I personally do not think it would be safe enough to ride.”
He also confirmed that the ferry suffered “major damage” to its hull when it fell off the blocks while being placed into drydock. “I don’t think they (Austal work crews) had the right or proper equipment to repair it. They just patched it up the best they could to put it back in the water.”
Jenkins and Swan Cleveland, union organizer for the Sheetmetal workers’ union engaged in the union drive at Austal, said the company allowed “people who are not properly trained” to do welding on the Alakai and its sister ship, now under construction and due for completion Sept. 30.
Jenkins attributed the use of poorly trained workers on the two high speed ferries to Austal’s desire to finish up the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, which is already over budget at $500 million.
“It seems they’re casting everything aside to complete the navy ship,” he said. “They want those other 55 ships (under the Navy LCS contract) so they’re trying to cut every corner they can.”
Cleveland [correction, it was Jenkins] also confirmed that Austal executives had discussed military uses for both of the high-speed ferries, saying “if the military needed the superferries, they could carry so many tanks and personnel.”
Cleveland further maintained that Austal was engaged in racial discrimination and union-busting tactics, and that a company using such practices should not be involved in building a U.S. warship.
Mahalo, Katy and Jimmy, for tracking those guys down and putting them on the air. Kinda puts the big dailies, with all their resources, to shame.