Superferry proposed for Texas-C. America

Superferry proposed for Texas-C. America

A new "superferry" service between Houston and Central America is slated to launch by the end of the year.

Gabriel Cserei, founder of Maya King Superferries, said the new service would create a Pan American maritime "highway" to parallel a land roadway project proposed by the Inter-American Development Bank.

Maya King will formally announce the venture at a press conference Jan. 16.

The weekly service would transport rolling stock, palletized cargo and passengers between Texas, Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, and Puerto Cortes, Honduras. From the hub terminal in Honduras, smaller feeder ferries would relay cargo and passengers to other Central American ports.

Cserei has secured a promise of $300 million in funds from the IADB, and is looking for a partner to put up the required 20 percent of the IDB funds to secure the loan.

"We've been talking seriously to Alexander Panagopulos, president and managing director of Superfast Ferries, as well as to Lockheed Martin and Rolls Royce," Cserei said.

Panagopulos operates nine ultra-modern car-passenger ferries in Europe connecting six countries in the Mediterranean, Baltic and North seas. Lockheed Martin builds a Supercat ferry, and Rolls Royce last fall christened the largest high-speed ferry built in the U.S., for operations on the Alaska Marine Highway.

"We may start off with an existing vessel and then go into a newbuilding program," Cserei said.

Superfast ferries typically carry about 1,500 people and 600-700 automobiles or roll-on, roll-off cargo. They travel at a maximum speed of 30 knots, with a service speed of 26-28 knots.

Cserei believes the project would tap into the southbound used-car trade and the northbound produce market. With a transit time of 38 hours between Houston and Puerto Cortes, Maya King also would bring Central America closer to vacationing tourists, he said.

The project has garnered support from the Port of Houston, and Reps. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas), and Houston Mayor Bill White are expected to speak at the press conference.