POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 18, 2012
KAUNAKAKAI » The U.S. Coast Guard has established a temporary security zone for when an American Safari Cruises tour returns to Molokai this weekend.
The Seattle-based company's vessel is scheduled to arrive at Kaunakakai Harbor on Saturday, nearly two months after protesters blocked a tour boat from docking. The boat returned the next day despite the protests.
Resident Walter Ritte, who participated in the November protests, told the Maui News the security zone is unnecessary because protesters have told officials they won't interfere with the boat's arrival.
"It seems like overkill to us over here," Ritte said. "We don't expect anybody to be in the water that day, and we told them that, but they're going to do it anyway."
Protesters are concerned about a cruise ship industry's effects on the island. American Safari Cruises canceled its port calls to Molokai in response to those concerns. The company later announced it would return after a series of meetings with community members and state officials.
"The people of Molokai have shown leadership in seeking a resolution to concerns that were raised about tour operations, and we want to thank them for working with the state in an open dialogue," said state Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairman William Aila.
Aila, state Department of Transportation officials, Maui County police and the Coast Guard were expected at another community meeting scheduled for Tuesday in Kaunakakai to provide information about American Safari Cruises returning to Molokai.
"I am thankful that Chairman Aila, the community and American Safari Cruises have been able to reach a peaceful resolution to this matter," said Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa.
The Coast Guard's security zone will include the entrance of the harbor and an offshore area near the entrance. It will be in force one hour before entries and departures by the Safari Explorer vessel.
The temporary rule is effective from Thursday through May 15. Public comments on the rule will be accepted until Feb. 3.