Monday, February 8, 2010

Some things noticed in HB2667, the "Ferry Bill"

Quoting in order from the measure at

"While the Hawaii superferry operation had its shortcomings, rocky start, and questionable financial forecast, it proved to be a very successful mode of transportation of both persons and property between the islands of Maui and Oahu."

Actually, it did not. The financial failings were because of the amount of fuel consumed by these particular vessels, the distances involved, and low ridership partly due to conditions. These were intrinsic to it's failure. Also, why the lower case on "superferry" and why the slang "rocky." Already we have indications that this bill was not professionally written, out of Souki's Office?

"At minimum, the authority shall operate one high speed passenger and vehicular ferry vessel, with a minimum capacity of four hundred passengers and __ hundred vehicles, capable of operating at thirty knots or more, for the carriage of passengers and property between the major islands, and other small vessels, as needed, for service to the between the islands of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai and other routes."

Interesting key limitations and exclusions in this paragraph. First, notice that this has to be a "high speed" ferry. Also notice that it has to be able to carry "vehicles." The high speed, vehicular ferry is an uncommon combination throughout the whole U.S. There are only a few vessels in the U.S. that meet that requirement. It also goes to the crux of two of the key points of contention with the HSF vessels. But further, notice the requirement of at least "four hundred passengers and __ hundred vehicles" capacity. That differs from the unconstitutional Act 2 that required 500 passengers and 200 vehicles capacity, a key point that made it unconstitutional. The 400/100 opens it up to more vessels in the U.S. that meet that requirement, but none of them are high speed ferries except for the Akakai, Huakai, and The Cat (The Cat not made in the U.S.). The 400/100 requirement might though qualify smaller fast ferries (outside the U.S./or yet to be made) that might better match the operational requirements of the fuel consumption/distances travelled between the Hawaiian Islands.

"§ -4 Initial operations. (a) The authority, as soon as practicable, shall engage in communications with the United States Department of Transportation and the United States Maritime Administration relating to federal funding assistance and the possible purchase or lease of the former Hawaii superferry vessels Alakai and Huakai or other ayailable suitable vessels to commence its operations."

First, notice again the lower case "superferry." Also notice the sloppy misspelling of "ayailable" from the original. But also a point to be clear on about the quote, "or other ayailable suitable vessels," at present there are no other qualified fast ferry vessels made in the U.S. that meet the requirements of this bill, other than the Alakai and Huakai, so that last open-ended statement is intentionally vague and deceptive. But also it is clear from the above paragraph that the drafters of this in the Legislature hope for some sort of sweetheart preferential treatment and maybe even funding from the U.S. DOT, MARAD, or the Federal Government in general. That's the Obama Federal Government that just proposed more than a trillion dollar deficit for the coming year and the foreseeable future, not having included this pork project in their proposals. This is just "passing the buck" on fiscal responsibility by those who vote for this bill. Either that or we are talking about state subsidies for a money losing service over properly funding things such as public education...

"The authority shall have access on a priority basis into all harbors and small boat facilities operated by the department and the department of land and natural resources..."

So a key aspect of this bill would be subsidizing a state run ferry service, most likely at a loss, to compete with a number of private sector companies by water and air...

"The authority shall have all the rights, obligations, and duties of a common carrier of persons and property in its ferry system operations, including the right to a certificate of public convenience and necessity..."

Who is to determine that? The Legislature or the PUC? Will you study that to determine if there is really 'need'? Or just vacantly declare it so in this bill?

"SECTION 5. This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2010."

Good LUCK with that.

Status of this bill:
HB2667 Status
Written testimony thusfar:
HB2667_TESTIMONY_TRN_02-08-10_ Testimony
Copy of the bill:
View PDF of measure text

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