Monday, February 4, 2008

HI Superferry: Comments on Recent Article

Christie Wilson of the Honolulu Advertiser had an interesting article yesterday with a few good tidbits in it:

Some quotes from that with my comments in red:

"...beyond the winter months to a time of year 'when sea conditions and weather are more predictable.'" - I think they will find that summer months in the channels going into normal trade winds will be almost as rough.

There are a number of quotes in the article comparing the interisland airline industry to the Superferry. The big difference not mentioned in the article is that an interisland air flight is 30 minutes and convenient. The Superferry's ride is 3 hours and inconvenient. The Superferry cannot compete with that kind of convenience. Fast ferries around the world are successful where there is not superior alternative competition and where the distances of one-way transits are substantially less than 100 miles.

"Maui Land & Pineapple Co. invested $1 million in the new business but has not been using the ferry to ship fruit to Honolulu because "currently the rates are not cost-effective," said Teri Freitas Gorman, vice president of corporate communications. ML&P invested in the ferry because "early on, we saw an opportunity to pull the state together and provide an alternative method of transportation for farmers and small businesses," she said. The company would like to transport refrigerated trucks on the ferry, but under current rules that require vehicles be accompanied by a driver, that would mean putting up the driver overnight in Honolulu until the next ferry leaves for Maui." - Interesting, but Christie left out that ML&P has already sold half of that $1 million investment to Grove Farm on Kauai controlled by some of the same investors as ML&P.

"Gruidl also complained of "extremely rough" seas and said the ferry trip didn't save as much travel time as he expected. - Oh yeah, in the channels I bet. See this:

"University of Hawai'i communications professor Tom Kelleher...'When was the last time you've had a case like this? This really is a new concept,' he said." - No, it's not a new concept. Ferries have tried and failed many times in Hawaii. This one's troubles are not merely as simple as timing or PR. This ferry's problems are fundamental to the annual natural elements, distances involved, vessel design, excessive amount of propulsion chosen, and expenses involved. The PR difficulties are merely a reflection of those underlying problems in this business plan. The world does not revolved around PR alone.

From my comment on that article at

"Done properly would be a ferry with about half the engine power as this one. This kind of fast ferry with 4 diesel jet engines operates financially optimally commercially around the world where there is not superior competition on transits of 30 to 70 miles, not 105 miles each way. This ferry has too much engine power and burns too much fuel to be cost effective for the distances involved here. Plus, this Austal design is not aerodynamic enough to go efficiently against the wind in the channels here. Travelling at engine power for 25 knots+ into a 25 knot wind speed is like 50 knots+ or more than 57.5 miles per hour of effective wind resistence not including gusts. The profile of this vessel is much less aerodynamic than what Incat offers. This vessel has too much engine power and too much wind resistence to be effective for commercial purposes alone here in Hawaii."

Aloha, Brad

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