It was a good morning for sleeping in, and Koko and I did, lulled by the rain that started at 4 p.m. yesterday and continued on through the night, pausing briefly around sunrise and then starting up again.
I could just feel the earth welcoming all that nourishment and moisture. I was up at Makaleha yesterday, where I was seriously bummed to see seven rental cars at the trailhead — is there no place now where the tourists don’t go? — and while the yellow ginger was blooming profusely, the stream was quite low.
Maui Tomorrow is looking for the low down on how much the Superferry is costing Hawaii taxpayers, a question that I and many others posed months ago. But they got it all together in a list that is extensive, and looks to be quite expensive, and they’re formally asking the Superferry Oversight Task Force to include that information in its final report to the Legislature.
Equally important, given all the secrecy and backroom dealing that has accompanied this project and Hawaii's government in general, the group asked the Senate Ways and Means and House Finance committees to release the document to the public and state auditor. We’ll see what happens. I'll be amazed if the costs are tallied, much less released to the public. But hey, hope springs eternal. After all, the bailout bill failed, or as blogger Ian Lind reminds us in a "language is important" post today, the financial stabilization legislation.
Yes, language is important, and so is money, which is why we surely all have the right to know just how much this "alternative form of transportation" is really costing us, especially now that state revenues are down and Superferry #2 is headed our way.
Yup, here’s a picture of “"the largest aluminum catamaran vessel delivered in the U.S." being launched yesterday at the Austal UAS shipyard in Mobile, Alabama:
An article about the launch published in the Alabama Press-Register includes a few interesting nuggets and one error:
The ferry is part of a two-vessel, $190 million deal Austal landed in April 2004. While early plans tentatively called for up to five ferries, the inter-island service has been slow to start because of legal and weather complications, and Hawaii Superferry Inc. now plans to operate just two ships.
The first boat, named Alakai for "ocean path," is sailing with far less than half its capacity of 866 passengers and 282 cars. That vessel operates daily between the islands of Kauai, Oahu and Maui. [We all know it’s not sailing to Kauai now, mahalo ke Akua.] The sister vessel will offer service between Oahu and the Big Island starting in May 2009, according to the company.
Alakai has been averaging about 300 passengers and 100 vehicles per voyage in the past several weeks, which Hawaii Superferry called a "significant" improvement over its starting numbers.
The article also touches on HSF’s legislative shenanigans:
In April, a preliminary audit found that the state bowed to pressure from Hawaii Superferry when it allowed the company to start operations without the [required environmental] review. The audit is ongoing.
And then it speaks to the military links:
At 113 meters (373 feet) long, the vessel launched Monday is 6 meters (19.8 feet) longer than Alakai, thanks to a ramp Austal added to its stern, making it suitable for military use. Industry watchers have said leasing the vessel to the military is a possibility, though the company said it is sticking by its plan to operate it commercially.
The second Superferry is one of two major projects that has sustained the 1,000-person workforce at Austal over the past several years. The other, a U.S. Navy combat ship, is scheduled to be christened Saturday.
Austal is awaiting word on more military work, including a major contract to build fast ferries for the U.S. Army and Navy.
One can only wonder how long the company will stick by its plan to operate the ferries commercially when it continues to lose money and now plans to add another ship to an already failing enterprise. Maybe HSF funder John Lehman is just waiting to see if his buddy John McCain gets elected, as he'll surely get a better military contract from a friend.
Mahalo to Dick Mayer, the super Superferry watcher, for sending these links.