Why Should You “Just Say No!” to SuperFerry?

Posted on September 12, 2007. Filed under: Community Up-Building, love your mother earth, Protect the 'Aina |

Last week protesters (400 on land, and more than 60 in the water) prevented the Superferry from docking at Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauai. They were confronted by Homeland Security, black-clad swat teams, and every form of law enforcement. World Can’t Wait put out a call to people to go to the Pier 19 to join a DMZ-Hawai`i sponsored picket in support of the Kauai protesters. We received a lot of harsh criticism for putting out this call.The World Can’t Wait planning committee held an emergency meeting to discuss the SuperFerry and unanimously concluded to support the protests against the SuperFerry. Furthermore, we felt the criticisms we received revealed an enormous lack of knowledge about the SuperFerry, and also concluded that we needed to do a lot more education. Consequently, we are putting together a brochure about the Superferry. Following is a draft of the contents. We encourage you to read it, investigate the sites we refer to, discuss it, and send us your comments.


Some Superferry facts:
* Carries up to 250 vehicles and 900 passengers.
* Travels at speeds in excess of 40 miles/hour
* Current Superferry scheduled make a round trip between O`ahu and Kauai each morning; between O`ahu and Maui each afternoon, 6 days a week. A 2nd Superferry scheduled to begin daily trips between O`ahu/Hawai`i in late 2008 or early 2009.

The Superferry and the Military

The majority stockholder in the Superferry is J.F. Lehman & Company. It’s chair, John F. Lehman, is the Chair of Hawai`i Superferry. John Lehman is the former Secretary of the Navy (Reagan administration), a signatory to the Project for a New American Century, a member of The Heritage Foundation, and a Commissioner on Bush’s National Commission on Terrorist Attacks. He’s an outspoken neocon and military hawk. For info on John Lehman: J. F. Lehman.J.F. Lehman & Company “is a private equity investment firm that focuses exclusively on acquiring middle market companies in the defense, aerospace and maritime industries…” Their focus is military. Their Board of Directors reads like a military who’s who (including General Fogleman, former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force; and General Kelley, former Commandant of the U.S. Marines; both members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff). Six of the Hawai`i Superferry’s 11 member board are Lehman Company executives. See: Lehman Company.

The March 28, 2005 issue of Pacific Business News reported that J.F. Lehman & Company had invested $58 million in the Superferry, acquiring its controlling interest, and said:

“With Lehman’s expertise, the Superferry plans to operate a Westpac Express, essentially to carry military equipment and ferry vehicles from Oahu to the Big Island on a daily basis. At present, the military has to make shipment plans six months in advance to put them on a barge, said Tim Dick, president and chairman of Hawaii Superferry. The ferry will save the military dollars and take 25 percent of the time,” Dick said. [Lehman said:] “This logistical plan will make it easier for soldiers to train when the Stryker Brigade comes to Hawaii. The brigade will be stationed on Oahu and conduct training exercises on the Big Island…The Superferry is strong enough to take Stryker vehicles,” “Hawaii Superferry provided the Army with a cost analysis and expects to negotiate a long-term contract, Dick said.” See PBN: pbn

The “Westpac Express” refers to the first Superferry built by Austral, the builder of Hawai`i Superferry. Westpac Express is operated by a subcontractor for the Third Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan and is used to transport military cargo and personnel. It was chosen for use in Okinawa to mask U.S. military presence on an island where the majority of the people oppose them. It is virtually identical to the SuperFerry. See: Austral.

Last week it was revealed that the State of Hawai`i entered into an agreement with the investors (J. F. Lehman and the U.S. Dept of Transportation) to exempt the Superferry from an EIS. Exemption was a pre-condition to investment. The Executive Director of the U.S. Transportation Dept’s Maritime Commission testified to the Maui Circuit Court that the SuperFerry would be useful for the military’s transport of cargo between the islands, and that the Maritime Commission had therefore provided $140 million in loan guarantees. He further testified that the Superferry has ALREADY been “approved for inclusion in the Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement program, which provides the military access to commercial sealift capacity in times of war” (and we are currently at war!).

The Hawai`i Superferry is fundamentally a military operation – a “joint-use” operation deceitfully sold to the people as a strictly civilian ferry that will better people’s lives.

Environmental Concerns:

One of the major concerns Superferry opponents have raised is environmental, and they are demanding an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Environmental concerns are serious and demands for the EIS must be complied with. However, regardless of whether or not an EIS is granted, we oppose the Superferry because it is one more military operation that is being foisted on Hawai`i. It’s a stealth military operation. It’s mission is to strengthen Empire. And we know that ultimately military concerns will over-ride environmental concerns – just as they have with the Stryker, Makua, Pohakuloa, Pearl Harbor, Waimanalo, etc. Here are some of the many environmental concerns that have to be considered.

Fuel Consumption:

The Superferry burns 5,600 gallons of fuel to travel 110 miles between Oahu and Kauai. This is more than 3 times the fuel used per air passenger. There are more fuel efficient ferries but they could not carry Strykers and other heavy military equipment. For example, a new hybrid solar/wind ferry will be used in New York Harbor that carries 600 passengers (www.solarsailer.com). Emissions that pollute the air and water are minimal. The redesigning of such an energy-efficient ferry for ocean use was not considered.

Danger to Whales and other marine animals:

The Superferry is huge, and it is fast. It cannot divert course quickly enough to avoid marine mammals. Nor can whales swim fast enough to avoid the hulls reaching 14 feet into the ocean which act like razors at high speeds. Dolphins, Hawaiian monk seals, smaller whales species, and sea turtles are also put at great risk. Whale deaths went from 1-2 every two years to 7 each year in the Canary Islands when high-speed ferries started operating. The Oahu/Maui route goes directly through the whale sanctuary.

Transport of invasive species and toxins:

Introducing 250 vehicles/day into the fragile neighbor island environments poses huge risks of transporting invasive species. This has been minimized by people comparing the Superferry to a Matson Liner, or a Young Brothers Ferry, or even the airlines. Each of these means of transport increases the risk of bringing invasive species to the islands, and environmental regulations and laws have to be strengthened to mitigate those risks. However, that’s no excuse for introducing more risks! Bringing in 250-500 vehicles each day, many of which will be used off-road to reach isolated fishing and hiking locations, will greatly heighten the risk of spreading invasive species such as miconia. The State sponsors TV ads telling people to wipe off their boots after hiking in one area and before entering another, but then subsidizes the spread by unwashed vehicles being transported on the Superferry.The use of the Superferry by the military, in particular, will also expose people to potentially higher levels of toxins – including depleted uranium (now confirmed at Schofield and Pohakaloa, where Stryker training is being conducted), arsenic, lead, RDX, TNT, HMX and other toxins.

Disregard for The Voices of the People of the Neighbor Islands

The people of the Neighbor Islands have consistently opposed the Superferry. Their reasons are many, including their “way of life,” which has been ridiculed by some to be a crass “not in my back yard” attitude. But why should the neighbor islands become mirror images of O`ahu with traffic congested highways and traffic jams? Why should the people there suffer from increased asthma and respiratory diseases from the pollution that fills the skies? Why should the fish population be depleted by weekend fishermen who will load up their SUV’s and head for isolated shorelands? Yes, everyone wants to enjoy the beauty of the neighbor islands. We want to camp, fish, hunt and hike. But this should not be at the expense of the land or the people of those islands. Being forced to take the plane and rent a car to do this is a drag and all of us wish for inexpensive and convenient means of travel between the islands. But the Superferry is not the answer.

O`ahu Centrism

Decisions effecting the neighbor islands are being made on O`ahu with no respect for the wishes of the people living on the neighbor islands, or concern for the unique environment of each island.From the beginning, neighbor island legislators have opposed the Superferry and have demanded an EIS. They have been consistently over-ruled by the far more numerous O`ahu legislators, whose major concern has been making the State “business friendly.”

The people on the neighbor islands have attended hearings, have distributed petitions, and have written letters to the editors. Neighbor Island newspapers have opposed the Superferry but their articles were never seen on O`ahu. Instead the Ferry/Military friendly O`ahu media has ridiculed their opposition. Is it any wonder that the people of the neighbor islands are outraged? They are, in effect, being told that they don’t matter! Business marches on – and they portrayed as obstructionists and “unwilling to change.”

Stop the Superferry

The people of Kauai came together in unprecedented ways to Stop the Superferry. People of different ethnicities and concerns came together with one voice. The protests were from the heart. They are just and must be supported. Were some protesters rude? Yes. Were some drivers rude and try to run them over? Yes. But what did the media choose to focus on? The few who targeted riders and not the ferry. The protesters who pounded on a car, but not the car that tried to run them over. Focus on what is principal, not the isolated incidents that are being used to discredit the hundreds of protesters who actually stopped the SuperFerry.Everything about the State’s actions with regard to the Superferry has been unjust (and even illegal!). They granted a huge project, of unprecedented proportions, an EIS exemption. They refused to disclose any SuperFerry/military contracts, even though we know such contracts were on the table. They are unwilling to address environmental concerns. And then they have the audacity to allow the SuperFerry to sail before schedule, and in violation of the spirit of the Supreme Court’s ruling that an Environmental Assessment must be performed. It is the State and the SuperFerry that should be on trial – not the protesters who put their lives at risk to stop it. But what happened? Federal, State and local law enforcement (led by Homeland Security/Coast Guard) called out Swat Teams, aimed Coast Guard high caliber weaponry at surfers, and threatened people with being charged as terrorists if they continued to protest. And now the Federal, State and local law enforcement is implementing even harsher means to prevent protests and protect the SuperFerry. Even if people support the SuperFerry, they should be alarmed by this militaristic attack on dissent. What happened is the rising face of fascism and needs to be called out for what it is.

We call on everyone to: (1) get educated about the Superferry; (2) look beyond your narrow interest of getting to the neighbor islands quickly, and ask yourself whether you’re going to be part of the increasing militarization of the islands, the degradation of its unique environment, and the well-being of its people; and (3) do everything you can to support the protests against the SuperFerry.

For more info:

Thanks Yvonne Gilbert for forwarding me this info via email – Z


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