Thursday, August 26, 2010

Interesting story on 41M Austal vessels in Trinidad & Tobago


"Trinidad and Tobago's new water taxis..."
Thursday, August 26 2010
Contributed by: ibalgobin

Water-Taxis “Paria Bullet” & “Trini Flash” undergoing sea-trials in Australia.The new Minister of Works and Transport, the Honourable Jack Austin Warner in his recently stated position has announced that he is seriously giving thought to divesting at least two (2) of our brand new Austal designed and built forty-one metre (41M) water-taxis already named “PARIA BULLET”, “TRINI FLASH”, “CALYPSO SPRINTER” and “CARNIVAL RUNNER”. This desire to want to sell-off “surplus” state assets that are “unable to pay for themselves” may be considered good thinking on his part.

The People’s Partnership Government inherited the previous administration’s business model of acquiring foreign used and/or new vessels with “built-in” maintenance contracts, some for as long as five (5) years, with foreign-based marine service providers, as is the case with the six (6) Trinidad and Tobago Offshore Patrol Craft (OPC). According to what has been previously stated by the Honourable Minister of Works and Transport and mentioned in the media, the maintenance cost alone for these four new water-taxis amount to some sixty-nine million dollars (TT$69 million), per year. Normally, as is the case with new automotive vehicles, very little maintenance is required within the first few years of operation, with the exception of routine air/oil filter changes, engine and hydraulic oil changes, lubrication of bearings, usually undertaken after a fixed scheduled number of running hours. As a matter of information, the sale of new marine vessels, normally carry a standard one (1) year shipyard manufacturer’s warranty, which would normally cover both major and minor components, ranging from engine propulsion units to navigational equipment.

In the last three (3) years, the previous administration had outsourced the purchase, maintenance and operational aspects of all of our passenger vessels to foreign entities. Examples of these contracts can be seen with the maintenance and operation of the three (3) used Hydrocruisers (existing water-taxis fleet) which is presently undertaken by Hornblower Global Maritime, Inc. (USA), the used twin INCAT inter-island fast ferries to Bay Ferries Management Limited (CANADA) and the most recent contract for the new water-taxis given to Austal Limited (AUSTRALIA). This foreign outsourcing model will invariably lead to an enormous imbalance between local revenues earned and expenditures paid-out in valuable foreign exchange, related to the operational and maintenance costs of our local passenger fleet.

As a developing country with a new administration intent on diversifying our economy from the energy sector, we all have to start to think even more creatively and look at new opportunities, as they arise.

So, from a purely economic standpoint, the new Minister cannot be faulted for wanting to divest these unproductive assets. However, there may be viable alternatives. For example, these new “surplus” water-taxis can be used to transport tourist from visiting cruise liners that dock at the port of Port of Spain and from those staying at the newly built waterfront Hyatt Regency Trinidad and the nearby Crowne Plaza hotel to Maracas Bay. Local residents will also appreciate driving to our capital cities of Port of Spain, San Fernando and soon-to-be Chaguanas, on weekends and public holidays enjoying the scenic water-taxi ride along the north coast of Trinidad, to and from our beautiful bathing beaches.

With the government owned water-taxi car parking facility available nearby, this can easily provide a convenient meeting point for our population, who will prefer to park their vehicles in a safe and secure facility, rather than to drive for several hours in slow moving traffic to and from the main beaches with their families, as is very common during national holidays. Likewise, the new water-taxis with their two levels of aircraft type seating accommodation can be utilized to offer a similar air-conditioned “tourist-like” experience to our world famous Caroni Swamp, via the Gulf of Paria sea route. The use of these environmentally friendly water-taxis with their large panoramic tinted windows and silent Kamewa waterjets should go well with environmentalists and the visiting scarlet ibis, including the aquatic wildlife.

The People’s Partnership manifesto promises not only to diversify our economy, but to also develop the maritime industry, which should include the development of our local vessel repair and maintenance capabilities. Therefore with a little creativity and thought, we can possibly do both with the newest additions to our maritime fleet.

Interior View of T&T Water-Taxis showing aircraft style seating accommodation.


- Photos courtesy and article written by Wilfred de Gannes, T&T Shipbuilding and Repair.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What are the Hawaii Superferries Worth?

There is a new KITV report on a MARAD official's statements yesterday in Honolulu on the expected auction of the two Hawaii Superferries here and here. In those reports the MARAD official is quoted as saying the lien that MARAD has on the vessels is a total of $150 million. The report further quotes,

"'I can tell you we already have a $150 million lien on both ships. So, you can of course, provide a cash bid higher than that amount and take ownership of both the Alakai and the Huakai,' said Matsuda. Matsuda was in Honolulu Friday for the groundbreaking ceremony for the renovation of the Pier 29 container yard at Honolulu Harbor. The project is funded with federal stimulus money. Matsuda said Maritime Administration wants the Superferry vessels for military and humanitarian projects."

Hold that thought.

You can look a number of places to try to find what the two Superferries actually cost to build including all the nice extras in the interiors and things added later like the Whale detection systems to the Alakai and the ramp, wastewater treatment, and desalination plants added to the Huakai. A simple place to look is Wikipedia which says each vessel's total costs were $88 million each, here and here. Of course that's just Wikipedia and the Huakai's costs were at least $5 million more than the Alakai. But a quick thumbnail estimate is that the combined cost for the two was at least $181 million new before depreciation. Hold that thought.

Now, it took a little bit of hunting but we went back and looked at some of the early Bankruptcy Court filings, and it looks like the outstanding senior lien that MARAD has on the two vessels is actually closer to $140 million, not $150 million. Additionally Guggenheim Corporate Funding, LLC has a lesser priority outstanding lien of about $48 million and Austal had an even lower priority lien of about $22 million. The State of Hawaii was junior to them. Austal wrote off their loan as a loss. Guggenheim's lien was "secured" in equity. It is understood that all equity holders would lose their money on this. So the key takeaway on the liens is that MARAD's is $140 million, not $150 million and that Guggenheim also has a lien and would be out $48 million. The total of those two adds up to $188 million, only slightly more than what the two vessels originally cost to build. Hold that thought.

Now, let's got back to that MARAD official's quote about $150 million. First of all, does MARAD determine and run the auction? NO, they do NOT. It is the Bankruptcy Court that does that. The MARAD official's comment, "So, you can of course, provide a cash bid higher than that amount ('$150 million') and take ownership of both the Alakai and the Huakai,' said Matsuda," is not something that MARAD will determine and is misleading. First of all, MARAD's outstanding lien is $140 million, and NOT $150 million and more importantly because these ships are possibly worth closer to $180 million than $150 million, but also because it is not for MARAD to say what exact dollar figure will be enough to take ownership of the two vessels, that's the purvue of the Bankruptcy Court.

So, what are these ships worth? Well, it's somewhere between $150 and $180. They have a tax depreciable life of at least 20 years, even though the Huakai is almost like brand new and should not be depreciated as much as the Alakai. The Alakai, if you will remember, had significant damage to the rudder, was run aground going into drydock, and fell off it's blocks in drydock. But, if they were both actually being used continuously over the past 2 to 3 years, then the total depreciation on $180 million would be about $4.5 million for the Huakai and about $13.5 million for the Alakai for a total of about $18 million off of $180 million equaling about $162 million, which is about what these two vessels are really worth, leaving $140 million for MARAD, not $150 million, and the other $22 million for Guggenheim, recovering almost half of their potential loss. Keep in mind, to build these brand new for commercial use would be at least $90 million each and also the builder Austal is being paid about $180 million to build just one of these very similar ships for the U.S. military as JHSV's.

Our conclusion is then that these two vessels together are worth no less than $160 million total. Their actual worth is probably a little more than that. We would expect Guggenheim to be a bidder on this in addition to MARAD. We believe MARAD will actually be satisfied to recover their $140 million, but we also believe MARAD when they say the, "Maritime Administration wants the Superferry vessels for military and humanitarian projects."

Now, let's see if somebody gets 'em for less than that?

By the way, Mufi, your cheap friends aren't in the running.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

More Misplaced Comments from Mufi Hannemann on the Superferry


Our responses in red. Excerpted from...

Hannemann talks about action plan
Economy, education, environment are key
POSTED: August 18, 2010

...Hannemann was unapologetic, saying his ads have facts meant to educate the public about the great disparity in the candidates' qualifications. He laughed off a section of the flier that listed "Won First Place, Lahaina Whaling Days Beard Contest" under Abercrombie's "Recognition."

The two men do have some similarities, though, in their campaigns. For instance, both veteran lawmakers said they'd put education first and start with placing the Department of Education superintendent in their cabinets (Hannemann would make the University of Hawaii president a cabinet member, too.); and both support bringing back the Hawaii Superferry.

Three Maui-based environmental groups successfully sued to kill off the Superferry after Gov. Linda Lingle's administration bypassed the environmental impact statement process. [The lawsuit wasn't what killed the Superferry, it was their own financial losses even when they were operating. HSF was never actually compelled to cease operations nor leave the state.]

Hannemann said he'd start the process from scratch to resolve Lingle's "mistakes" by hosting public meetings on the Superferry plan across the state, and he'd start a new environmental impact statement to make sure the slate is clean. [DOT has been planning to reuse the information from the Act 2 EIS and add some to that. Hannemann doesn't say whether he would rescope it. The existing vessels are logistically inappropriate for the route requirements.]

"If we're going to do this again, we have to do it right," Hannemann said.

He said he'd favor a public-private partnership that likely involves using the currently bankrupt company's two giant high-speed catamarans to transport military personnel on leave between islands. [HSF was already transporting military personnel on leave, and it wasn't making a difference with their bottom line. What Hannemann could more transparently say is "transport military personnel and their equipment on assignment between islands for training purposes."]

"It would free up a lot of lines at the airport," he said. [Not really, it never did. HSF did a small fraction of the business that the airlines did.]

But Superferry's true benefit was economic. Before service ceased about two years ago, a lot of Maui farmers, fishermen, contractors and other small-business owners used the ferry to get their goods to the lucrative Oahu markets... [Some Maui farmers were using it, and they are now using Aloha Air Cargo with no problem. The fishermen, contractors and small-business who were using it were mostly from Oahu. No surprise that the Oahu Development Board, Enterprise Honolulu, lobbied so hard for HSF and was putting out narrow and what turned out to be inaccurate economic forecasts on it as far back as 2003.]

An additional response from another commentor:

Economic? Really? Bleeding $40-$50 million out of the state’s budget for infrastructure, now to be paid off by other harbor users (though both the Alakai and floating barge are gone). Where is the economic cost/benefit study to show that a subsidized interisland ferry will help enough small businesses ship interisland to make it worth the costs, including the increasing price of fuel for the gas-guzzling fast ferry? State to pay for public meetings and preparing a new EIS?

With his above statements Mufi Hannemann reveals insight into his thought processes. The same processes he would use to try to solve any other problems. Such as with this one. It should be clear to all that regardless of his formal education, Mufi Hannemann is not the sharpest tool in the shed.