Friends of Falls of Clyde (FFOC) was encouraged by the Scottish newspaper article that someone posted on the Friends of Falls of Clyde Facebook page recently. The article stated that Falls of Clyde International (FOCI) has found a company to design a power and propulsion system for Falls of Clyde, once she is restored and repurposed according to the plan developed by FOCI head David O’Neill. What the article lacked, however, was any information about how FOCI plans to move the ship from Honolulu to Scotland, which is a critical part of the success of the plan. The FFOC board is prepared to transfer ownership of Falls of Clyde to FOCI, if that will expedite the ability of FOCI to contract with a company to make the move. Saving Falls of Clyde is the mutual goal of our two organizations.
The COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown here have change life as we knew it, at least for an extended period of time, as it has affected people throughout the world. We must rely on the Harbors Division’s vendor to be sure the Falls is kept safe.
Although we have had no direct communication with Save Falls of Clyde International, a supporter, John Ewald, has kept in contact with Friends of Falls of Clyde and has been active in letting us know that there are people who still want to see the historic ship saved. He has offered ideas and has agreed to help with communication with Save Falls of Clyde International to see how we can work together to make sure the ship is saved and moved to a safe haven outside of Hawaii. FFOC is still committed to providing whatever assistance we can to help with the plan to move the ship.
Another interested person with whom we have been communicating is Art Mitchell, who has a connection with Falls of Clyde, through his late brother, who was on the Ketchikan city council and was involved in bringing the ship from Alaska to Seattle in the 1950s. He was trying to raise the funds to restore the ship at the same time that Bob Krauss and John Wright were successful in purchasing the ship to come back to Hawaii. Art has contacted Harbors Division to determine what he could do save the ship by finding a place in the Northwest U.S. The Harbors Division was not open with him and suggested he contact FFOC or SFOCI. He plans on pressing them for details about what is needed to move the ship. Unfortunately, it appears that Harbors may have reinstituted the $1.5 million performance bond requirement that we already know is a non-starter for anyone who wants to move the ship. FFOC is also open to working with Art should a viable plan develop. He is currently trying to find an alternative site with accompanying funding and potential repurposing plan for the ship.
FFOC continues to monitor the agencies that Harbors Division must contact before they can take any negative action against the ship. We do not know what Harbors Division will do after the pandemic is over, but we still are prepared to take legal action once the Harbors Division gives us cause.
February has been a quiet month. On the positive side, we found that the Harbors Division has dropped the $1.5 million performance bond requirement for anyone who wants to move the Falls of Clyde out of Honolulu Harbor. This is a new opening for Save Falls of Clyde International. Unfortunately, Save Falls of Clyde International’s owner, David O’Neill, tried to bully Governor Ige through Facebook, which was unfortunate.
FFOC was contacted by a writer from Honolulu Magazine about publishing an article in the next couple of months that will be a positive for the ship and our efforts to save her.
As the new year began, the new piece of information we received was that David O’Neill of Save Falls of Clyde International has approached the Harbors Division asking them to work with his organization by contributing money to have a German company come to move the Falls of Clyde to Scotland. The logic is that by contributing money the State can save on the cost of removing the ship if they had to do it on their own. This does make sense and Friends of Falls of Clyde made the same request many months ago only to be told it could not be done. Friends of Falls of Clyde wrote to the Harbors Division decision makers supporting the Save Falls of Clyde International proposition as a reasonable one to meet their ultimate goal of removing the ship and the goal of those who recognize the historical importance of saving the ship.
We believe that local supporters will help with funding a return to Scotland once a firm date is made for the trip home.
As the year draws to an end, the fate of Falls of Clyde still hangs in the balance. Friends of Falls of Clyde tried to help out Save Falls of Clyde International by asking Harbors Division to remove the bond requirement which no organization could meet. We also asked to be kept in the communication loop with regard to their actions, but received no response at all. As previously reported, Harbors also denied access to the ship to celebrate her 141st birthday. Finally, in the latest edition of Honolulu Magazine, Falls of Clyde and FFOC were mentioned in their annual “Sour Poi Awards: The Best of the Worst.” Basically they lamented our situation and reiterated the long-time mantra of Harbors Division that the ship is a safety hazard.
As we enter 2020, we continue to believe that Falls of Clyde must and will be saved.
The good news during this period is that we learned that direct communication has been set up between Save Falls of Clyde International (SFOCI) and the Harbors Division. SFOCI is still progressing in getting support for the future of Falls of Clyde, but the arrangements to remove the ship from Honolulu Harbor have still not come together. Apparently the new deadline is sometime in December 2019. We noted that the Harbors Division is still requiring a $1.5 million performance bond as part of the project to move the ship. That requirement resulted in the failure of Harbor’s auction process. Because FFOC has insurance underwriting expertise on the board, we contacted the leadership at the Harbors Division, pointed out that the bond requirement could never be met, and asked that they remove that requirement and work with SFOCI to come to reasonable terms to meet what should be a mutual goal.
Although there has been no significant activity this month, September has been an important month. It was September 2008 when Friends of Falls of Clyde acquired ownership of Falls of Clyde from Bishop Museum.
September 2017 was the first month that a heavy lift ship was to pick up Falls of Clyde to take her to Scotland, which unfortunately never happened. September 2018 was the deadline agreed to with Harbors Division that Save Falls of Clyde International was to arrange for Falls of Clyde to be to be picked up for its journey to Scotland and again this did not occur.
September 2019 was another silent month from Save Falls of Clyde International. However, FFOC did hear about a possible source for moving Falls of Clyde to the West Coast. It is a longshot, but we must pursue any option that could materialize to save our beloved ship.
Unfortunately, we have nothing substantive to report this month. There has been no update from Save Falls of Clyde International. The board of FFOC is open to any suggestions about how we can meet Harbors Division’s requirement to remove the Falls of Clyde from Honolulu Harbor. The weather has been good so Harbors Division has not taken steps to push the removal.
For some reason, the question of ownership has come up. Friends of Falls of Clyde is the legal owner, although Harbors Division has control due to the impoundment. However, they have given us clear steps to get release of the ship to Friends of Falls of Clyde:
Our contact with the State oversight offices did get us responses from Harbors Division. Unfortunately the reply to our March 12 letter was not answers to the issues we raised, but only a comment that Harbors is following the procedures they have started. The request for the report on the bow repairs did come in once Harbors got the letter from the Office of Information Practices advising them that they violated the time to provide requested documents. A copy of what we received was sent to David O’Neill as he had requested.
Friends of Falls of Clyde’s board has been concerned that time is limited to protect the ship from adverse action by Harbors Division. We continue to communicate with the regulatory agencies that must give approval before Harbors can remove Falls of Clyde. We know that so far no contacts have been made, but the Scotland Plan for repatriation has got to be completed soon. We have sent O’Neill our position on how to finalize the move, but have had no reply. We have a letter from Harbors Division stating that they will release the ship from impoundment when there is a vessel here to remove the Falls..
We have been working to meet the requirements that David O’Neill of Save Falls of Clyde International needs to complete the repatriation plan. It appears that there needs to be communication between technical experts to determine the scope of a structural condition survey requested. Hopefully this will be worked out shortly.
We still have had no communication from Harbors Division. We have filed a complaint with the State Ombuds Office to investigate why we have not gotten replies to our communication going back to March 12, 2019. Hopefully that will get us the answers we need. We also had to file a complaint with the Office of Information Practices, because Harbors Division did not respond to our request for a copy of the repairs done in January when there were leaks in the bow. The work was done under Harbors Division’s emergency contract with PENCO, but as owner we have a right to the repair report, which hopefully will come shortly.
On the positive side, although Harbors Division has stated in their press release that Falls of Clydeis being prepared to be moved, there has been no contact with the EPA, Coast Guard or State Division of Historic Preservation. The disrespect that Harbors Division has shown is unbelievable for a State agency that is supposed to serve the citizens of Hawaii.
Bruce McEwan, President
We know that there is great interest in the future of the Falls of Clyde. There is a lot going on that the Board of Directors is dealing with, so we felt that keeping stakeholders involved through a report on our website is the easiest way to reach our worldwide audience.