STAR-BULLETIN / JUNE 2007
The Hawaii Superferry Alakai makes its way toward Pier 19 in Honolulu Harbor.
Fargo to take the helm at Superferry
The one-time Pacific Fleet leader says most of his experience is in maritime operations
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Retired Navy Adm. Thomas Fargo, former head of the U.S. Pacific Command, will take the helm of Hawaii Superferry as the interisland service tries to chart a new course that includes more passengers and fewer disruptions.
Superferry officials announced yesterday that Fargo, 59, will succeed John Garibaldi as president and CEO of the company on Monday. Fargo led the Hawaii-based U.S Pacific Fleet for nearly four years before overseeing the Pacific Command from 2002 to 2005.
Superferry opponents said Fargo's appointment underscores their concern that the ship's main purpose is as a military vessel.
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Retired Adm. Thomas Fargo, who once led the U.S. military's largest command, will take control of a fleet of one -- an interisland ferry with a short, choppy history and an uncertain future.
Hawaii Superferry officials announced yesterday that Fargo, 59, will replace John Garibaldi as president and CEO of the company on Monday. Garibaldi will become vice chairman and continue to serve on the board of directors.
Fargo was in charge of the Hawaii-based U.S Pacific Fleet from 1999 to 2002 and then headed the U.S. Pacific Command, the nation's largest military command, until retiring from the Navy in 2005.
"I've got an extensive amount of leadership and management experience, but also my concentration has been in really complex maritime operations," Fargo said yesterday. "So I think that as we look to the future, I'm fundamentally an operator and a leader, and I think my skills match up pretty well to the mission ahead for the Hawaii Superferry."
Tig H. Krekel, vice chairman of J.F. Lehman & Co., the majority investor in Hawaii Superferry, said in a statement: "We are excited to have such a talented leader as Adm. Fargo join our Hawaii Superferry management team.
"During his 35 years of naval service, Tom was an outstanding manager of complex maritime operations and facilities."
Superferry opponents said the appointment underscores concerns about the connection between the ferry and the military.
"There are many unanswered questions about that relationship," said Katie Rose, of the Kauai Alliance for Peace and Social Justice. The appointment "raises questions of whether the Superferry might not be a part of a move to use commercial ferries to increase the Navy's capabilities."
Rose said the concerns have been raised because John Lehman, who heads the investment company, was secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan, and the firm "invests heavily in military projects."
Rose said the environmental impact statement being prepared for the service "should explore the potential for use of the ferry to transport Stryker vehicles to other islands and what that might mean. We deserve an explanation."
When asked about the concern, Fargo said in a phone interview, "We're here as a commercial operation to move residents, visitors and businesses between islands. The future is in our commercial operations."
Fargo, who is a managing director with J.F. Lehman & Co. and a member of the boards of Hawaiian Airlines and Hawaiian Electric Industries, said: "We are at an important time in developing the operation.
"We've shaken it down, learned a lot, and we've seen that people are riding it now." He said 2,000 people are booked to ride during the next four days.
The vessel returned to service early this month after weeks of dry-dock repairs, and the company announced this week that it was adding a second Maui round trip that will be run four days a week starting May 9.
The Superferry began service by linking Honolulu with Maui and Kauai for a brief time in late August before legal troubles and protests shut down the operation.
The Honolulu-Maui service resumed in December with the 350-foot Alakai making daily round trips, but was sidelined by rough waters and repairs. The Honolulu-Kauai service remains on hold.
The Associated Press and Star-Bulletin reporter Mary Adamski contributed to this report.