Why is a Hawaiian ‘superferry’ docked at the Philadelphia Navy Yard?

    If you’ve been down to the Navy Yard in the last week or so, you may have been confronted with an odd sight.

    A huge boat with “Hawaii Superferry” painted across the length of its hull sits near the Urban Outfitters headquarters.

    That’s a helluva trip for a tune-up, a passerby might note.

    But, no, it didn’t make the voyage from Hawaii. It’s in Philly on a month-to-month basis. It had been parked in Norfolk, Va. It’s not even a ferryboat anymore.

    Hawaii Superferry, the ship’s parent company, went belly up in 2009. Since then, the Alakai (and its sister ship, the Huakai) have led a vagabond existence, traipsing from port to port under control of the U.S. Maritime Administration.

    In 2010, the ships even helped out in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti.

    The Navy acquired the high-speed ferries in May 2012. Now the Alakai is called the USNS Puerto Rico, though you wouldn’t know it from the paint job.

    So what’s it doing in Philly?

    “High-speed transport Puerto Rico is currently berthed at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard under caretaker status,” says Meghan Patrick, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command. The Navy is parking the boat up the Delaware to keep it safe during hurricane season. It’s being looked after by Rhoads Marine Industries.

    And it may be here for a while.

    “HST Puerto Rico will remain berthed at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for the indefinite future,” emails Patrick. “The future mission of HST Puerto Rico is still being evaluated by the Navy.”

    Not so for its sister ship. The USNS Guam (formerly the Huakai) will soon be used to transport troops and cargo from Okinawa, Japan to other training sites in the U.S. Pacific Command.

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