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Thursday, August 23, 2018
Hawaii ports closed for Hurricane Lane
By Michael Hansen @ 9:11 PM :: 3757 Views :: Jones Act

Hawaii ports closed for Hurricane Lane

by Michael Hansen, Hawaii Shippers Council, August 23, 2018

KHON Channel 2, in Honolulu, Hawaii, interviewed Michael Hansen, President of the Hawaii Shippers Council, for a segment regarding the potential impacts of Hurricane Lane on the State’s ocean transportation, which was broadcast on the evening news, Wednesday, August 22, 2018. 

According to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu, as of midday Thursday, August 23rd, Hurricane Lane is 275 miles south of Honolulu moving at speed of 7 miles per hour, and not forecasted to begin affecting Honolulu Harbor until approximately midday Friday, August 24th. At this time, we do not know how severe the affects will be on the south coast of Oahu Island where Honolulu Harbor and the main airport are located.

The U.S. Coast Guard, Captain of the Port, Sector Honolulu, ordered all commercial harbors in the State closed as of Thursday morning and all commercial vessels of 200 gross tons and greater to evacuate to sea.

Honolulu Harbor is the entrepot for the Hawaiian Islands where virtually all ocean container cargo for the State is discharged at the Sand Island marine container terminals. Sand Island lays between the open ocean and the harbor basins and would be subject to inundation with a large storm surge.

Container cargo bound for the Neighbor Islands is transshipped at Honolulu Harbor on two local feeder services employing cargo barges operated by Matson Navigation Company Inc. and Young Brothers Limited.

The only facilities in the State with ship to shore container gantry cranes able to efficiently discharge and load a containership are the Sand Island container terminals. In a worst-case scenario, significant damage to these facilities could disrupt the follow of container cargo for a substantial period of time.

In the event Hurricane Lane remains at sea and relatively far from land as it passes the main Hawaiian Islands, and in particular, Oahu Island, the disruption in cargo flow will be approximately one week, as the ships will have to return to port and resume cargo operations when the Coast Guard orders the ports reopened. This would be the best-case scenario.

In the worst-case scenario, it’s likely that a Jones Act waiver would be necessary to ensure the flow of goods from the U.S. mainland to the State of Hawaii. However, without any actual damage to transportation infrastructure having yet been caused by Hurricane Lane, making a material request for a Jones Act waiver is premature.

Key excerpts from the KHON news article:

Hurricane Lane has triggered port closures that will disrupt cargo for days, meaning whatever supplies are in warehouses and on shelves may be it for now.

Closing the ports, waiting out the storm, then phasing in an orderly return is expected to mean about a week pause in the normal flow of goods and food being restocked, and a few days longer for the neighbor islands since all cargo is offloaded in Honolulu first.

We're looking at disruption of at least a week,” said Michael Hansen, president of the Hawaii Shippers Council. “That is best-case scenario.”

Worst case, Hansen says, is weeks without resupplies.

“If we have any damage to the harbor facilities, if the hurricane comes closer and especially if the hurricane were to come ashore on the south coast of Oahu island in the area of Honolulu Harbor and the airport,” Hansen said, “we're looking at, especially with a storm surge, potentially substantial damage. If that were to occur there would be a longer disruption. That would involve a much larger effort, and that 14 days that the state has been talking about (for minimum emergency supply kits), we will go far beyond that.”

“The only container cranes that we have in the Hawaiian Islands are located on Sand Island in Honolulu Harbor,” Hansen said.

If the crane operations at Honolulu Harbor are damaged, “at that point we would need a Jones Act waiver and lots of assistance to start moving cargo in (on ships that carry their own offloading cranes),” Hansen explained. “There are no Jones Act eligible vessels that have their own cargo gear that could be available for this.”

Assuming ships are returning to damage-free ports, the estimated one-week cargo backlog is just Oahu. It could be a few more days wait for neighbor island resupplies.

“That cargo is first discharged from the mainline ships from Honolulu Harbor, and any cargo for the neighbor islands is transshipped on local barges,” Hansen said. “So the whole state will face that disruption."

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