Former Superferry Delivers In Haiti

Published Dec 22, 2010 3:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

Contributed by the HMS Team in Haiti Just days after the devastating January 12th earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the Maritime Administration (MARAD) pressed into action the former Superferry’s, Huakai and Alakai, managed by Hornblower Marine Services (HMS), for assistance in Operation Unified Response. Their high-speed capabilities, cargo versatility, shallow draft (12’) and range make them ideal for relief missions such as this one. For the proponents of the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) community, it’s an early opportunity to execute missions with ships of very similar design and learn of their capabilities. Already, these ships have proven their abilities to deliver mission packages, cargo and personnel into an austere port. Due to the extent of damage to the port from the earthquake, Huakai was not limited due to the lack of infrastructure post-earthquake. At the time of this writing, the Huakai has already traveled over 3,500 nautical miles, delivered over 600 tons of cargo including humvees, trucks, trailers, pallets and QUADCON’s filled with supplies and aid and approximately 155 troops. Upon arrival at the port of Verreaux, approximately 1.5 miles from Port-au-Prince, the magnitude of the wreckage and despair amongst the people of Haiti galvanized the mission for the crew. That became even more evident as wooden skiff’s began approaching the vessel hoping for assistance from the ship. With each passing minute, the crew realized that the images from television and other media outlets could not help one comprehend the true disaster of which the people of Haiti were experiencing. On January 14, 2010, HMS began to receive numerous calls from both MARAD and Military Sealift Command (MSC) about possible deployment of the vessels in the Haiti earthquake relief effort. The following day, HMS mobilized management and other personnel to Norfolk, Virginia to join the existing caretaking crew (3) to begin readying the ships for sea. Within days, HMS entered into agreements with MARAD and MSC to operate and manage the ships in the relief efforts. Huakai was the first focus of this mission given her additional versatility with the quartering stern ramp. Although in hot layup the ship did have some obstacles to overcome such as fuel system issues on two of the four main engines, annual servicing of all eleven life rafts and four evacuation slides and a full annual Coast Guard inspection (COI). From its large pool of professional mariners, HMS rapidly crewed the ships with the required type ratings for high-speed craft operation, provided technical and administrative support and logistical capabilities critical to a successful completion of this challenging task. The new COI was received by January 25th, eleven days after accepting its mission. Simultaneously, HMS also readied Alakai, including manning with a full complement, serving all rafts and evacuation slides and conducting the Coast Guard inspections. The Alakai received its COI on January 27th. The successful deployment in such a rapid fashion of these ships was due to the combined efforts we received from the United States Coast Guard, MSC and all of the vendors and others that were a part of this operation. Delivered in 2007 and 2009 (respectively), only Alakai was put into service in Hawaii. The ship operated for 15-months between the islands of Oahu and Maui. In the spring of 2009, Alakai transited to Mobile, Alabama for hot layup with Huakai. Under the control of MARAD in July of 2009, both ships were moved from Mobile to Norfolk. Alakai and Huakai are sister 107-meter US flag high-speed car and passenger catamaran ferries built by Austal USA. With 44,000 total horsepower, they are capable of transporting various cargos at 30 plus knots. The ships have a passenger capacity of 866 persons and a vehicle capacity of 282 or 25,000 square feet of cargo.