At long last, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced today that it’s auctioning of the old Hawaii Superferries, named Alakai and Huakai. Considering that the vessels haven’t really been used since Hawaii Superferry, LLC. went belly-up in May 2009 (Huakai apparently never even entered the Pacific), the government is selling them as a two-boat package “as is, where is,” which means bidders are gonna have to go to Norfolk, Virginia to get them.
How much the 882 ton, 35-knot vessels (which can carry 282 cars and 836 passengers) will ultimately go for is hard to say. They’re both still fairly new, but the Alakai proved to be an unforgiving ride in the Molokai Channel during her Oahu-Maui crossings and even had to go back into the drydock for rebuilding while in service.
There is, according to this Pacific Business News story, no announced minimum bid (click here for the official sale listing in the Federal Register). Back in September 2010 MARAD bought the ships for $25 million a piece, but considering Hawaii Superferry, LLC owed the taxpayers $135 million at the time of their May 2009 bankruptcy, it’s pretty clear the government would love to recoup that loss (though we’ve watched enough Pawn Stars to know the fed probably won’t get anything like that back when the sale goes through).
The successful bidder also has five business days after winning the auction t put down a $500,000 “nonrefundable” deposit on the vessels, or risk losing the whole deal. And all bidders must include an affidavit “stating that the bidder is not affiliated with the former owner, Hawaii Superferry LLC, or any of its officers, directors or significant equity owners” (I’m looking at you, former Navy Secretary John F. Lehman!)
Seriously, this really brings back memories. The fight over the Superferry was intense and dramatic and stupid and glorious and absurd, all at the same time. It involved craven public officials, shoestring financing, armies of lawyers and a squadron of fearless Kauai surfers and paddlers who actually prevented the Alakai from entering Nawiliwili Harbor. For some crazy reason I still have a copy of the “Inaugural Issue” of Hahalua, the Superferry’s official magazine, which debuted in 2007 and contained such memorable quotes as “The ferries are really shaped around the special place that is Hawai`i, and the way people live here” (CEO John Garibaldi) and “The launch of the Hawaii Superferry and its interisland service creates a bridge for bringing our people, products and places together” (Governor Linda Lingle).
So kids, it’s time to smash open your piggy banks and check the couch cushions for loose change — you might just find enough dough to buy your own fleet of superferries! And then you could start calling yourself Admiral, and no one could stop you.