Thursday, January 14, 2016

JHSV Hawaii Superferry Predecessor Design Falling Apart for the Navy/DOD

New Navy Ships Have Trouble Surviving the High Seas

  • - Austal's Expeditionary Fast Transport ships need bow repairs
  • - U.S. Navy adopted a flawed design to save weight, report finds
The U.S. Navy is spending millions of dollars to repair new high-speed transport ships built by Austal Ltd. because their weak bows can’t stand buffeting from high seas, according to the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester.
“The entire ship class requires reinforcing structure” to bridge the twin hulls of the all-aluminum catamarans because of a design change that the Navy adopted at Austal’s recommendation for the $2.1 billion fleet of Expeditionary Fast Transports, Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation, said in a report to Congress.

USNS Spearhead
USNS Spearhead
Source: Austal Ltd.

“The Navy accepted compromises in the bow structure, presumably to save weight, during the building of these ships,” Gilmore wrote lawmakers, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, in a September letter that wasn’t previously disclosed. “Multiple ships of the class have suffered damage to the bow structure.”
The speedy catamarans are designed to transport 600 short tons of military cargo and as many as 312 troops for 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. They’ve been deployed to Africa and the Middle East as well as to Singapore as part of the U.S.’s Pacific rebalance and are being considered by military officials for expanded use there by the Marines. The vessels fill a transport gap between larger, slower vessels and cargo aircraft.

Meets Criteria

Michelle Bowden, a spokeswoman for Henderson, Australia-based Austal, deferred comment to the Navy. Captain Thurraya Kent, a Navy spokeswoman, said the service accepted Austal’s recommendation because the company’s analysis showed the lighter-weight bow met criteria of the American Bureau of Shipping and Pentagon requirements. She said in an e-mail that Gilmore’s report confirms that the vessel “meets and in certain area exceeds” key performance parameters.
The Navy bought 10 of the shallow-draft vessels, at about $217 million each. Five have been delivered and are in operation, while the other five are under construction at Austal’s Mobile, Alabama, shipyard. Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which added $225 million for an 11th vessel to the fiscal 2016 defense spending bill last month.
So far, the Navy has spent almost $2.4 million strengthening the bow of the first four vessels delivered since late 2012.
Repair costs include $511,000 on the initial vessel, the USNS Spearhead, which was damaged during deployment by waves slamming into the superstructure, according to test data cited by Gilmore and the Military Sealift Command.
The second, third and fourth vessels cost as much as $1.2 million each to repair and a fifth vessel, the USNS Trenton, awaits its bow reinforcement during its next scheduled shipyard visit, Tom Van Leunen, a spokesman for the Military Sealift Command, which owns the vessels, said in an e-mail.

Added Weight

The retrofits have added 1,736 pounds to the ship’s weight, displacing 250 gallons of fuel but having a minimal impact on the vessel’s range when fully loaded, Gilmore said. His concern about the vessel is likely to be highlighted in his annual report on weapons testing that’s scheduled to be released by Feb. 1.
“Since the repairs are still in progress, there has been no heavy weather testing yet to verify if the fixes are sufficient,” Marine Corps Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a spokesman for Gilmore, said in an e-mail.
Even with reinforced structures, the fast transport ships operate under sailing restrictions because “encountering a rogue wave” can “result in sea-slam events that causes structural damage to the bow structure,” Gilmore wrote. The operating restrictions include requiring vessels to wait out the highest seas or travel at speeds much lower than their maximum, according to Gilmore’s report.
Van Leunen, the Military Sealift Command spokesman, said that “the Navy routinely diverts ships during transits to avoid heavy weather” and this ship is no exception. Its primary missions will often be in coastal waters that offer “some protection from weather and sea state when compared to open ocean transits,” he said.

Generator Reliability

The vessel’s latest sea tests also were marred by the poor reliability of generators made by Fincantieri SpA that supply electrical power, according to Gilmore. The generators failed “at a much greater rate than predicted.”
Required to operate 8,369 hours between major failures, the generators failed as soon as 208 hours at some points, improving to 1,563 hours in the most recent tests.
Fincantieri spokesman Antonio Autorino said in an e-mail that “the concerns described in the report have been resolved and this information was provided to the Navy, yet was not included in the report.”

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Superferry Recap 2012

Mr. Axe does a good job explaining the Superferry venture and how John Lehman made use of it with Austal, Atlantic Marine, and BAE Systems in the years since the Superferry's failure.  Lehman only ended up doing well with it because of his perseverance.  If it had been just the Superferry, it would have been a miserable failure.  In comments below, Mr. Lehman is too hard on the Hawaii Supreme Court, the problem was in the construction of Act. 2 by the Hawaii Legislature.  Maybe he has some purpose in blaming the Court rather than a Legislature he might need to deal with again in the future.  Agree with Mr. Axe's closing point that "campaign talk of a massive naval buildup may fade as budget realities set in."  Lastly, it's a little off topic for the article, but Lehman's position on the 9/11 Commission was a noteworthy responsibility that went unfinished and determining details unattended to as with the Superferry's business plan...


Romney’s Big Navy Guru Made Millions From Building Ships
By David Axe October 23, 2012 of Romney’s most important advisers on Navy issues, a man who oversaw a massive naval expansion for Pres. Ronald Reagan, there’s more at stake than U.S. national security. John Lehman, an investment banker and former secretary of the Navy, has strong and complex personal financial ties to the naval shipbuilding industry...

Lehman invested in a government-backed “Superferry” in Hawaii — a business that ultimately failed, but not before boosting the standing of Austal USA, an Alabama shipbuilder that constructed the ferry service’s ships. Austal USA’s rising fortunes in turn benefited international defense giant BAE Systems, which then bought up shipyards owned by Lehman in order to work more closely with Austal USA.

...But Ryan Sibley — an editor at the Washington, D.C.-based watchdog Sunlight Foundation who has closely tracked the former Navy Secretary’s investments — says that ”Lehman’s involvement with the Superferry shows that he is no stranger to using personal connections to influence costly decisions.”

...Lehman was the chairman of Hawaii Superferry, a transportation startup based in Honolulu that briefly provided passenger service between the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Maui. It relied on a new type of fast catamaran ferry built by Austal USA, a shipbuilder in Alabama specializing in speedy aluminum vessels.

Founded in 2003, Hawaii Superferry secured a $136-million loan from the Maritime Administration, a federal agency that oversees sea transportation. Lehman’s own equity firm, the controlling private investor, put $85 million into company. Hawaii Superferry also benefited from $40 million in port enhancements paid for by the state of Hawaii.

The ferry company bought two ships from Austal USA, each more than 300 feet in length and capable of carrying hundreds of passengers plus their cars at speeds in excess of 30 knots. The vessels cost $105 million apiece.

The first ferry entered service in mid-2007. But with low ticket prices and soft demand, the service was a money-loser. The company was also mired in controversy over the environmental impact of its facilities. In 2009 Hawaii Superferry declared bankruptcy. Lehman reportedly lost his entire $85 million investment, and says his total losses were much, much greater than that.

“The two Hawaii Superferrys that we built — on time, and on budget — were operated in commercial service, with no government customers,” Lehman tells Danger Room. “We were put out of service by the chicanery of the State Supreme Court and we lost over $300 million.”

But in another regard, the ferry was a smashing success. Austal USA, which builds aluminum warships for the Navy, was angling to build military versions of the Hawaii ferries to meet a new Pentagon requirement for fast transports called Joint High-Speed Vessels, or JHSVs. “Building the Superferry was very helpful in demonstrating that we can build these ships,” said Bill Pfister, Austal USA’s vice president for external affairs.

Out of direct public view, Superferry officials touted their ship’s military potential. Superferry’s pitch to the Hawaiian Public Utilities Commission included a slide claiming the ferry could haul the Stryker vehicles belonging to a Hawaii-based brigade. The company paid a lobbying firm $70,000 to try to convince the Navy to add the ferry to a program that assigns military transportation jobs to civilian vessels.

In late 2008, the Navy tapped Austal USA to build 10 military versions of the Hawaii ferry for $1.6 billion. Some critics have questioned whether Superferry was intended all along to serve as a proof-of-concept — admittedly, a money-losing one — for a much more valuable military program. “The fact that the Superferry was already in the water, proving its seaworthiness while the JHSV contract was being considered, suggests that it may have always been intended as a prototype or demo model for the larger deal,” Koohan Paik and Jerry Mander, who penned a book about the ferry controversy, wrote in The Nation.

Superferry president Thomas Fargo, also a J.F. Lehman & Co. board member, denied the claim. “We always get the question, ‘Was this designed as a military operation?’” he told The New York Times. “That’s absolutely not true.”

Regardless, the Hawaii ferries themselves did become military assets. In 2010 the Maritime Administration sued to take over the two ships in order to recoup some of its $150 million investment. The administration later sold both ferries to the U.S. Navy for a total of $70 million.

At first glance it’s not clear how Lehman could have benefited from his money-losing investment in Hawaii Superferry. The answer lies in another of the former Navy secretary’s investments: the Atlantic Marine family of shipyards.  In 2006, Lehman purchased the shipyards in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Boston and Philadelphia for a reported $170 million. In 2009, the federal government awarded three of the yards $2.7 million in stimulus grants for improvements.

In 2010 international defense giant BAE Systems, which handles ship repairs among other specialties, acquired the Florida, Mississippi and Alabama yards for $352 million — ringing up an estimated $180 million profit for Lehman that more than makes up for his “failed” investment in Hawaii Superferry. Lehman held onto the remaining two yards in Philadelphia and Boston. Recently both have received lucrative ship-repair contracts from the Navy. They could receive even more such contracts if the sailing branch were to grow at a faster pace, as Lehman intends.

Today the Alabama yard, which is adjacent to Austal USA’s own facilities, plays a critical role in military programs on which Austal USA and BAE Systems collaborate. “We launch both their JHSV and [Littoral Combat Ship] vessels with our dry docks; we also support Austal with warranty repairs, if requested,” BAE Systems spokesperson Stephanie Moncada tells Danger Room. Austal USA did not respond to an e-mail requesting comment on the company’s relationship with BAE.

In addition, Austal USA does work on aluminum structures as part of BAE Systems’ ship-repair contracts with the Navy. Being in such close proximity to each other makes BAE Systems and Austal USA’s collaboration possible, or at least more efficient.

Even before the acquisition of the Alabama yard, BAE Systems enjoyed close ties with Austal USA, namely in providing guns and radios for the Littoral Combat Ships Austal USA builds for the Navy. That made BAE Systems an obvious prospective buyer for Lehman’s yards — the Alabama one in particular.

But Lehman’s investments in the partially taxpayer-funded Hawaii Superferry reportedly helped Austal score the military transport deal, thus improving the business case for a closer partnership between Austal USA and BAE Systems. That partnership is being facilitated by BAE Systems’ Alabama shipyard, purchased at a 100-percent markup from Lehman.

To put it plainly, Lehman’s investment in the failed, government-backed Superferry boosted Austal USA, whose rising fortunes also benefited BAE Systems, which in turn bought up Lehman’s shipyards — improved by stimulus funds — in order to work more closely with Austal USA. That roundtrip deal helped earn Lehman’s firm a reported $180 million profit. In that sense, Lehman in fact more than doubled his $85 million investment in Hawaii Superferry, with a big assist from the taxpayers.

“While I don’t know how typical Lehman’s conduct is, his involvement with the Hawaii Superferry suggests his expertise lays in the strategic deployment of taxpayer resources for personal gain,” Sibley, the watchdog, tells Danger Room.

Lehman calls the allegation “kind of amusing. We have never owned a shipyard that builds Navy ships. We have owned four shipyards that repair, not build commercial ships and Navy ships. The Navy business made up about 15 to 20% of the repairs. We still own two of those four, having sold the other two to BAE.”

Ultimately BAE Systems, whose shipyard purchases added significantly to Lehman’s already substantial personal worth, stands to earn potentially tens if not hundreds of millions from the ships specified in Lehman’s naval buildup scheme. Each LCS costs around $500 million; the Navy plans to acquire at least 55 of the ships. As Romney’s naval adviser, Lehman specifically promised to continue the program, and mentioned possibly adding more combat gear to the vessels — gear that could be built by BAE Systems.

...Perhaps none of this will have an influence on a Romney Pentagon. Perhaps the campaign’s talk of a massive naval buildup will fade as budget realities set in. But if a Romney administration does embark in such an enormous increase in military shipbuilding, it’s worth noting that one of the brains behind the expansion has profited rather handsomely by encouraging the Navy to build.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Alakai and Huakai now the USNS Guam and USNS Puerto Rico

IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 08, 2012 Secretary of the Navy Names High Speed Ferries Guam and Puerto Rico The Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today the names of the Navy’s recently acquired high speed ferries (HSFs); the USNS Guam and the USNS Puerto Rico. The selection of the name Guam honors the long-standing historical and military relationship between Guam and the United States. This relationship began in 1898 when the United States acquired the island from Spain as a result of the “Treaty of Paris” that ended the Spanish-American War. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese captured Guam which they occupied until U.S. troops retook the island on July 21, 1944, a date commemorated every year as “Liberation Day”. Guam continues to host many of the United States’ critical military installations in the Pacific Ocean. Selection of the name Puerto Rico honors the association of Puerto Rico and the United States that dates back to 1898 when Spain ceded control of the island in the Treaty of Paris. Although the initial intent was for the island to serve as a location for rest, coaling and repair stations for the Navy, Puerto Rico has formed a close relationship with the United States. Numerous Puerto Ricans have served proudly and the territory has been home to five Medal of Honor recipients -- Fernando L. Garcia, Carlos James Lozada, Euripides Rubio, Hector Santiago-Colon and Humbert Roque Versace. “High speed ferries will be used for peacetime operations such as troop transport training, exercise missions and humanitarian and disaster relief,” stated secretary Mabus. “I am pleased that Guam and Puerto Rico will serve as namesakes for these important additions to the fleet, in honor of their strong military heritage and our many shared values.” Prior to being acquired by the U.S. Navy, both HSFs assisted in humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti while operating under the names Alakai and Huakai. Guam and Puerto Rico are currently being modified to support military operations and to increase the platforms’ endurance by installing crew berthing, sewage treatment plants and water-making equipment.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Goal: LCS Update

Four More LCSs Contracted

Bypassing the DoD's DefenseLink system, the Navy announced yesterday the exercise of options on its contracts with the two LCS contractors covering the next four ships, LCS 9 through 12. Read the announcement here. The table below shows the current status of the program. March 17, 2012.

LCS1FreedomMarinette Marine 19-Sep-08Active
LCS2IndependenceAustal USA 18-Dec-09Active
LCS3Fort WorthMarinette Marine47112-JunBuilding
LCS4CoronadoAustal USA43413-MarBuilding
LCS5MilwaukeeMarinette Marine43714-AugBuilding
LCS6JacksonAustal USA43214-FebBuilding
LCS7DetroitMarinette Marine37715-AugBuilding
LCS8MontgomeryAustal USA36914-OctBuilding
LCS9Little RockMarinette Marine35716-FebBuilding
LCS10Gabrielle GiffordsAustal USA34615-AugBuilding
LCS11Sioux CityMarinette Marine35716-AugBuilding
LCS12OmahaAustal USA34616-MarBuilding



Seaward Services to Operate HSVs Alakai & Huakai for US Navy
Monday, March 19, 2012

Seaward Services (SSI), a HMS Global Maritime (HMSGM) company based in New Albany, Indiana, is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a contract through Military Sealift Command (MSC) to operate and convert the former Hawaii Superferry vessels HSV Alakai and Huakai for MSC...

The contract is anticipated to extend to last for one year and will end with the delivery of the vessel to Naha, Okinawa, Japan, where it will provide services to the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force...

[Ed. Note - Report does not say where the Alakai and Huakai will be in the year before delivery to Okinawa...]

Monday, September 19, 2011

What's up with the Ferries?

U.S. weighs four bids on Hawaiian superferries

The Alakai and Huakai, two Hawaiian superferries docked at Lambert’s Point , may soon be changing hands.

The U.S. Maritime Administration, which put the two vessels up for sale on an “as is, where is” basis in late June, has received four bids.

They were due by 5 p.m. July 20.

The administration is “working expeditiously with bidders and other interested parties in evaluating its options, with a goal of maximizing the government’s return from these vessels,” according to a spokeswoman.

The June 20 sale notice in the Federal Register made it clear the ferries would not be given away.

The administration reserved “the right to reject any and all bids and to seek additional bids from the bidders and any other interested parties.”

The plan was to sell the ferries together – they would be sold separately only if they could be sold at the same time, according to the notice.

Also required: cash sale or owner-procured financing, plus a $500,000 non-refundable deposit for each ferry.

The administration took possession of the ferries in July 2009 after a bankruptcy judge ruled that the owner – Hawaii Superferry Inc. – could abandon them to lenders, owed nearly $159 million. The administration, which guaranteed the loans, moved them to Norfolk. -- Robert McCabe