Hawaii harbor officials are examining the state’s first-come,
first-served berth allocation system and other port-related
policies to see whether changes are needed to balance the competing
interests of cruise, cargo and other ships as Hawaii prepares to
receive record levels of traffic.
Three major Neighbor Island ports at Kahului, Hilo and
Nawiliwili will get a total of 299 cruise ship calls this year. In
2008, those ports already have 631 scheduled bookings an increase
of 111 percent in five years.
In Kahului, a cruise ship will be in port 279 days a year. In
Hilo, 13 ships have already been turned away over the next two
years because of insufficient space, said harbor master Ian
“As the industry changes, what we are simply doing is a fairly
standard review of our regulatory policies and seeing if they still
fit,” said Scott Cunningham, Maui district harbor manager who is
heading the Department of Transportation task force examining the
Adjusting the berthing system might help the overload, some
shipping agents and government officials said, but inadequate
facilities are the real culprit. Some projects are already under
way, such as an $8.6 million Kahului pier extension, but building
enough infrastructure to meet the impending demand would take
Harbor and industry executives met in a video teleconference
last week to develop potential interim solutions.
Shipping agents suggested making more efficient use of existing
facilities and installing an information system that would readily
display available berths statewide.
To alleviate the problem of locking up berth space well into the
future, Waldron Steamship Co. president Bill Thayer argued that DOT
should stop accepting bookings for ships that are not yet
In 2004, Norwegian Cruise Line will have four ships home-ported
in Hawaii, and the company already has booked slots for those,
including the ships still under construction.
“It’s going to be everyone else that’s trying to come in and
compete against them,” Thayer said.
But an NCL representative said it would not make financial sense
to build ships if the company were not guaranteed a place to use
“It’s a chicken-and-egg thing,” said Ed Rogin, a Honolulu-based
attorney for NCL who was at the video conference. “If you can’t
reserve the berths, why build the ships?”
Rogin noted the company’s substantial contribution of taxes and
jobs to Hawaii, more than 10,000 statewide, according to a study
commissioned by Norwegian. “It’s so vastly more important than an
occasional visit by a foreign-flag ship,” he said.
Ultimately, however, nothing definitive emerged from the
meeting, several people present said, and there is no plan to meet
“There hasn’t even been a definitive decision made as to whether
what we have now might not in the end be the best thing,”
Cunningham said. “That’s still up for grabs.”