Hawaii Superferry files for bankruptcy
Hawaii Superferry and its affiliate HSF Holding filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code in Delaware on Saturday.
The company said it planned to liquidate assets and wind up its business, the Honolulu Advertiser reported.
The bankruptcy is likely to raise questions about the Title XI ship-financing program of the U.S. Maritime Administration. The agency in 2005 approved $139.7 million in financing for the two 105-meter, high-speed roll-on/roll-off ferries that the company built at the Austal shipyard in Mobile.
Only one of the ships, the Alaki, was put into operation. It was forced to cease operations in March in the wake of a Hawaii Supreme Court decision that declared unconstitutional a state law that allowed the high-tech catamaran to operate between Oahu and Maui islands while an environmental study was prepared.
Protesters had disrupted operation of the ship, claiming it could injure whales and damage the ecology of the islands by spreading invasive species.
When the company shut down operations in the spring, the Alaki was moved to Mobile and Tom Fargo, president and chief executive of Hawaii Superferry, said the firm would seek “other employment” but hoped to return. Meanwhile, just as that Supreme Court decision came down, the Austal said the second Hawaii superferry Huakai was complete and ready for handover to the company.
A company headed by John Lehman, President Reagan's former Navy Secretary, is a major investor in the project, and MarAd backed the project with a $140 million shipbuilding guarantee.
The Honolulu Advertiser quoted “sources close to Superferry” as saying it was possible for a “white knight” investor to show interest in the two ships, but it would unlikely be for service in Hawaii.
The magazine Marine Log speculated on its Web site Sunday that the U.S. military might be a potential charterer of the ships, saying “two Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV) in the defense budget now before Congress are of basically the same design.”