Superferry secures $210 million investment
ABN-Amro is providing a loan while an investor group has come up with equity financing
The company seeking to launch interisland ferry service in Hawaii said yesterday that it has completed a crucial part of its plan, securing more than $210 million of needed financing.
Hawaii Superferry Inc. officials signed documents with investors and the federal government in Washington, enabling the company to move forward with the project, said Susan Clark, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Maritime Administration.
The company said it secured a $140 million federally-guaranteed loan from ABN-Amro Bank and $71 million in equity financing from an investor group led by the private equity firm J.F. Lehman & Co.
"Hawaii is a big step closer to ending its long standing as the only archipelago in the world without ferry service between it major islands," said Tim Dick, president and one of the founders of Hawaii Superferry.
"It will help make interisland travel affordable and convenient again for our families," he said. "The service will be especially helpful for neighbor islanders, who travel to Oahu for business, personal and health care needs three times as often as Oahu residents travel interisland."
Among other things, the financing was needed for the construction of two high-speed catamaran ferries. The first is under construction in a shipyard in Mobile, Ala.
The financing was one of the final hurdles for Hawaii Superferry, which aims to begin interisland passenger and vehicle service linking Honolulu with Maui and Kauai in 2007. Big Island service is scheduled for 2009, when needed infrastructure is completed at Kawaihae Harbor and the company's second 105-meter, high-speed vessel is slated to be delivered.
With financing secured, the company still faces legal challenges mounted by environmental groups that have filed two lawsuits.
Opponents of the service point to concerns over possible effects on migrating whales, conflicts with other harbor users and the transmission of invasive species.
Under a memorandum of agreement signed in September, the company said it would pay the state at least $2.3 million per year for the first three years of operation.
The state would receive $2 per passenger, $4 per private vehicle and $20 per commercial vehicle.
However, John Garibaldi, chief executive of Hawaii Superferry, has said based on passenger projections, the company expects to pay much more than $2.3 million every year.
For its part, the state is providing $40 million worth of harbor upgrades and equipment to be used primarily by Hawaii Superferry.