Audit says state still liable for Superferry expenses

Dan Meisenzahl
Dan Meisenzahl

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three huge concrete and steel barges that were built for the Hawaii Superferry are docked at Honolulu Harbor. They're remnants from the operation that went bankrupt in 2009, and reminders that the state owes money for Superferry bills.

"Now we're left holding the bag, and it's a bill that we're going to have to pay. It's an expensive mistake," State Transportation Department spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said.

A recently released audit said the state is still liable for $63 million in Superferry expenses.

"It's frankly a travesty. We shouldn't be on the hook for that kind of price," Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter director Robert Harris said.

The audit highlights three major expenses: $60 million for a bond liability plus interest; $500,000 for tug services in Kahului harbor; and $443,000 to repair the barge and pier at Kahului.

"We've got to make sure we clean up this mess, and make sure something like this doesn't happen again," Meisenzahl said.

He said fault lies with the previous administration.

The Superferry filed for bankruptcy in 2009, after the state Supreme Court ruled a law unconstitutional that let the vessel sail while an environmental impact study was being done.

"When the Abercrombie administration and the new management team came into the DOT, we really took a long hard look at everything the DOT was doing under the mantra, 'Let's make sure that this is not another Superferry,'" Meisenzahl said.

"I think we always knew it was a risk when the state was investing millions of dollars to do these improvements, particularly without doing the environmental review ahead of time," Harris said.

The state held onto the barges in case the Superferry was resurrected. That idea died when the U.S. Navy bought the vessels. Now the state wants to sell the barges that are docked at Piers 26, 29 and 34.

"They'll go up for auction, and they'll be sold. Hopefully, we can recoup some of the money that we've lost," Meisenzahl said.

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