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Hawaii News

Hurricane prompts harbor closure warnings

Andrew Gomes

Hurricane Lane’s projected shift Tuesday toward Hawaii triggered widespread cautionary actions at ports statewide that will delay shipments and force many boaters to seek sheltered waters.

Containerships not arriving in Honolulu by today likely will have to delay arrival until the storm passes.

Interisland cargo transportation company Young Brothers Ltd. said that starting today it won’t accept cargo at any of its Hawaii ports and has canceled scheduled sailings today through Saturday for destinations on Maui, Kauai and Hawaii island.

Even pleasure boats at commercial harbors around the state, including Kewalo Basin in Kakaako, are being ordered to depart for sheltered waters.

All these moves were in response to safety concerns and directions from the U.S. Coast Guard, which issued warnings Tuesday for commercial harbors statewide.

The Coast Guard warning issued at 11 a.m. Tuesday was made in anticipation of winds over 39 miles per hour hitting Hawaii island by 11 a.m. today. When such winds are expected within 12 hours, ports are closed and all harbor activity is suspended. Hilo Harbor was closed Tuesday to inbound traffic.

Ports on Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kauai were issued a less severe warning Tuesday but in essence can expect the same warning as Hawaii island with a 24-hour lag.

The state Department of Transportation said it expects the Coast Guard will close Honolulu and Kalaeloa harbors by 11 p.m. tonight.

Ocean cargo transportation firm Pasha Hawaii Transport Lines said its containership the Horizon Pacific, en route to Honolulu, won’t make the cutoff and will have to wait for a new permitted arrival window. Hawaii’s largest ocean cargo transportation firm, Matson Inc., said it has one ship that is scheduled to arrive in Honolulu this afternoon that needs to be turned away. The company also said it has three neighbor island barge deliveries that will be delayed by the storm.

Young Brothers said its operating adjustments are “necessary precautions” to secure port facilities and ensure safety.

“Young Brothers’ first priority is the safety of our employees, our equipment and the cargo,” Joe Boivin, company president, said in a statement.

DOT commercial harbors manager Peter Pillone said Honolulu Harbor is a critical hub for supplying each island with essential supplies.

“In order to protect our most crucial asset, our ports, it is incumbent upon each harbor user to do their part in protecting our infrastructure,” he said. “Upon the direction of the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the state of Hawaii, vessels must leave our harbors, so we can properly protect our piers and ensure vessels have a safe port to which they can return and begin to supply our state as quickly as possible following a heavy weather event.”

About 80 percent of all goods consumed in Hawaii are imported, and 98 percent of that comes by ship, according to state estimates.

At Hawaii’s small-boat harbors overseen by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, there are no planned closures, but the agency advised boaters to make sure their vessels are secure, DLNR announced Tuesday. Harbors in Waikiki (Ala Wai), Keehi, Waianae and Haleiwa are among DLNR facilities.

All the changes to commercial harbor operations were prompted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center forecasting Tuesday that Lane will have a closer brush with Hawaii than previously expected.

The forecast anticipates that Lane, which is expected to pass most of the islands as a hurricane, has strong chances of creating tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 mph on land. Those chances most likely are 70 to 80 percent for the southwestern edge of Hawaii island and at least 30 percent for the rest of the island late tonight. For Oahu and Maui the most likely chance of such winds mainly range from 50 to 70 percent between late Thursday and early Friday. And for Kauai the most likely chance is 40 to 60 percent Friday morning.

It’s too early to forecast any negative impacts to passenger airline traffic. Generally, it’s up to airlines and pilots to assess whether conditions are safe enough to fly, according to DOT officials. Hawaii airports and runways will remain open unless infrastructure damage or debris makes flight operations unsafe, the agency said.

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