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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 25, 2009

DOT also objects to Superferry plans

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

The state Department of Transportation yesterday joined unsecured creditors owed money by Hawaii Superferry in objecting to the company's request to abandon its two high-speed catamarans.

In filings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, the unsecured creditors and the state argue it is premature for Superferry to abandon the catamarans so soon in the bankruptcy process. The unsecured creditors say Superferry has not provided enough evidence to show it is unable to maintain the catamarans or potential alternatives to giving up the vessels.

Superferry has asked the bankruptcy court to abandon the catamarans to secured creditors: the federal Maritime Administration, shipbuilder Austal USA, and the state of Hawai'i. A hearing is set for Wednesday.

The federal Maritime Administration, which guaranteed financing for construction of the catamarans and holds priority mortgage, filed paperwork yesterday with the bankruptcy court to ensure its foreclosure rights and ability to lease, charter, operate or otherwise use the vessels is protected.

The Maritime Administration has told the Mobile Press-Register in Alabama that it will take possession and likely sell the catamarans once cleared by the bankruptcy court.

The unsecured creditors argue, however, that Superferry could sell or charter the catamarans domestically or abroad, which would provide money to help pay debts.

The catamarans, attorneys for the unsecured creditors wrote, "are presumably the debtors' most valuable assets and should not be hastily abandoned this early in the cases."

An attorney for the state argues that the state Department of Transportation is involved in a public-private partnership with Superferry and will be "impacted significantly" if the catamarans are abandoned.