SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 181
REQUESTING THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION TO STUDY THE FEASIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING AN INTERISLAND FERRY SYSTEM SIMILAR TO THE FERRY SYSTEM OPERATED BY WASHINGTON STATE
Testimony from Michael Hansen, President Hawaii Shippers Council, April 2, 2015
...At the Hawaii Shippers’ Council we believe that the prospects for a Hawaii interisland ferry should be well researched and seriously considered by the Hawaii State Government, but believe approach outlined in the resolution is too narrowly focused on the Washington State Ferry System and should inter alia seek a private operator through a tender process as opposed to state owned and operated service.
We think the State has a major role to play especially in terms of port and terminal facilities and should not also undertake the highly specialized role of vessel owner and operator, which the private sector can accomplish much more efficiently.
Our primary concerns with the resolution as constructed are as follows:
1. Single Model Focus: Washington State Ferry.
The Washington State Ferry operates in the protected waters of Puget Sound and the kinds of vessels, manning, and operating costs will be substantially different from those inter Hawaiian Island environment. The Alaska State Ferry which operates between Seattle, Washington, and ports in South East Alaska would be the best analogue within the United States. However, even focusing on the Alaska State Ferry would be too restrictive as there are a large number of oceangoing ferries operating throughout the world. One operating model of particular interest would be the ferry operating between mainland Australia and the island state of Tasmania, as the distances and operating frequency would be applicable to potential Hawaii routings.
2. Feasibility Study: Professional Consulting Contractor & Terms of Reference
We do not believe that the Hawaii State Department of Transportation has the expertise in house to credibly accomplish a Hawaii interisland ferry feasibility study, and this should be done by a professional consultant with specialized knowledge of ferry operations. The terms of reference for a feasibility would have to be developed, cost estimates made for the consultancy, and funding authorized for the Department of Transportation to undertake this. Among other things, the consultants should develop a Request for Proposals criteria for potential commercial ferry operators to bid on the opportunity to operate the proposed ferry service.
3. Port Ferry Facilities: Architectural and Engineering
Typically, the port facilities for ferry services are extensive and tailored to the particular operating model selected by the ferry service operator. This was a major area of controversy between the now defunct Hawaii SupperFerry and the Department of Transportation because the operation was not able to pay for the facilities. The extent and cost of the necessary facilities may well determine the State’s role and desire to proceed with the project. This will require extensive engineering estimates to be conducted by A&E contractor after the operating model has been established.
4. Regulatory Approval of a Prospective Ferry Service.
There are several State regulatory issues that need to be resolved prior to attempting to establish a Hawaii interisland ferry and are at least as important as the technical modeling, facilities and feasibility considerations. The issue that plagued the Hawaii SuperFerry was the requirement for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which was established in retrospect. The Department of Transportation, which was only responsible for providing the port facilities, was required by the Hawaii State Supreme Court to accomplish an EIS covering the vessel operations and other matters such as invasive species transmission that beyond their control. In addition, any ferry operator would have to comply with the Hawaii State Water Carriers Act of 1974 as amended by Act 213 of 2011. An important aspect of the feasibility of a prospective ferry service would be whether it would have to comply especially with the amendments of Act 213 to provide service to all neighbor island ports.
5. Coastwise Trade Exemption.
It is highly unlikely that a Hawaii interisland ferry service could be successfully inaugurated without what is known as an “exemption from the coastwise laws of the United States” to allow the use of foreign built ferry vessels operating under the U.S. flag. Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 commonly known as the Jones Act and the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 require that vessels be built in the U.S. to carry merchandise and passengers by water between to points in the U.S. The universe of oceangoing ferry vessels in the world fleet and those foreign shipbuilders who regularly construct oceangoing ferry vessels is exponentially larger than in the U.S., and ferry vessels can be obtained on considerably shorter lead times and substantially lower costs from these foreign shipbuilders.
We believe the best prospects for introducing a successful Hawaii interisland ferry would be using a conventional displacement hull ferry of the kind that commonly operate throughout Europe. This kind of vessel would be far more economical to acquire and operate than the high speed aluminum hulled catamaran ferry vessels of the Hawaii SuperFerry, and should have better sea-keeping characteristics. The most advantageous route would be between Honolulu Harbor, Oahu Island, and Kawaihae Harbor, West Hawaii Island. This would require two identical ferry ships operating opposite to each other daily with an approximately 9 hour transit. A port call on Maui could be scheduled, however, there will be problems serving Kahului Harbor, as the ferry would have to transit the Pailolo Channel (between Molokai and Maui) and the North Shore of Maui Island on each directional leg. The heavy weather in the Pailolo and on the North Shore of Maui led to hull damage on the SuperFerry and suspended service during winter months. An alternative would be to construct a new deep draft commercial harbor on the South Coast of Maui Island for use by the proposed ferry service that would shorten the passage and reduce the impact of heavy winter weather.
We believe that the resolution while addressing a real need is premature and the approach should be developed further before adopting a measure that doesn’t adequately address the issues.
We formed a Hawaii interisland ferry working group last October and would be pleased to share the results of our investigations with you during the interim.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify in regards to Senate Concurrent Resolution 181....
FULL TEXT: Testimony and Attachments
Related: Grassroot Institute Testimony on SCR181
Ferry Measures in the 2015 Session:
SCR181 / SR 116 The companion resolutions were heard and recommended passed by the Senate Committee on Transportation on March 31st with amendments. However, to date the amended version has not been posted to the Legislature’s website. As there was a single committee referral in the Senate to Transportation, presumably the measures will move to a floor vote in the Senate, and if adopted, the concurrent resolution would crossover to the House. As House speaker Joe Souki is a strong supporter of a State owned and operated interisland ferry service, we might expect the Senate Concurrent Resolution 181 to receive favorable treatment in that chamber.
HCR 177 / HR 113 Call for an intra-island commuter ferry service linking Kalaeloa Barbers Point Harbor to Honolulu Harbor. There are no hearings scheduled and it appears the measures will not be moving.
HB 415 A House Minority Caucus Package measure that would direct and fund the State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to conduct an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for the prospective revival of an interisland ferry service. There are no hearings scheduled and it appears the measure will not be moving. As the State Harbors Division completed a Preliminary EIS for the defunct Hawaii SuperFerry and that is the state agency most closely associated with operation of an interisland ferry, it would have seemed more appropriate to direct the Bill to the Department of Transportation.