High-speed catamarans may be based in Hawaii

This is a computer rendering of the joint high-speed vessel built by Austal, builder of the two Hawaii Superferry ships. Photo via: Austal Ships/Honolulu Advertiser

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

The Army said it plans to look at the environmental impact of basing up to three “joint high-speed vessels” in Pearl Harbor — speedy craft capable of carrying large loads, similar to the defunct Hawaii Superferry’s ships.

Last March, Hawaii Superferry shut down operations of its ship Alakai after the state Supreme Court ruled the company couldn’t operate without completing an environmental impact statement. The company filed for bankruptcy in May.

Mike Formby, deputy director of the state Department of Transportation Harbors Division, said yesterday the impacts are unclear should the Army decide to base one or more of the 338-foot catamarans in Hawai’i.

“One thing we don’t know that needs to be fleshed out is where the vessels are going to operate, if they are deployed or positioned in Pearl Harbor,” Formby said. “Are they going to go to Pōhakuloa (Training Area) on the Big Island? Are they going to use our state piers? Where are they going to offload their military equipment and troops? None of that has been discussed with the state.”

The Army published a notice in the Federal Register on Friday saying it would conduct a programmatic environmental impact statement analysis of basing up to 12 joint high-speed vessels at five locations.

Officials with the Army Environmental Command in Maryland could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The notice said the Army is working in coordination with the Navy, which is scheduled to receive 10 of the catamarans.