Task force tackles illegal fireworks - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Task force tackles illegal fireworks

Task force seeks to stop illegal fireworks Task force seeks to stop illegal fireworks
Mar Labrador Mar Labrador
Sen. Wil Espero Sen. Wil Espero
Fireworks industry representative Jerald Farley Fireworks industry representative Jerald Farley

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Agriculture and an independent agency called TAG randomly inspect some of the 200,000 shipping containers that arrive in Hawaii each year.

They search the containers brought in by Horizon Lines and Matson Navigation Company for irregularities but not for illegal fireworks.

Now the state Illegal Fireworks Task Force is discussing searching containers to snuff out the illegal fireworks trade.

Shipping industry executives fear that kind of procedure would be time consuming and costly.

"Are we really looking for a needle in a haystack in trying to provide a solution to the illegal fireworks coming into the islands?" said Mar Labrador, senior vice president of Horizon Lines.

The task force estimates 150 to 200 containers may carry the black market fireworks that arrive before the New Year's holiday.

The panel made up of lawmakers and federal, state and county representatives said a search and seizure method may be necessary even if it slows down the shipping process.

"We certainly understand that. And we don't want to make our harbors and our shipping industry inefficient," Sen. Wil Espero said.

Espero heads up the task force that is looking for ways to stop the black market fireworks trade some estimate rakes in millions of dollars a year.

But the legal fireworks industry said searching containers needs to be selective.

"The way our business model works, we bring in full containers. For the most part they come directly from foreign ports so they're already subject to inspection by Customs and by the Coast Guard," said fireworks industry representative Jerald Farley.

Shipping executives told the panel it costs about $1,000 to unload, inspect and re-pack a container.

"We also need to be very cautious about additional cost, that we're not laying burden on the process. Because ultimately it's the consumer that's going to have to pay that price tag," Labrador said.

Shippers said they're all for stopping illegal fireworks from entering the state, but the state needs to exhaust all options before it lands in their lap.

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