Seven commercial catamaran companies operate at Waikiki Beach. They sell customers sightseeing and ocean adventures. They pay $8.50 a year for a registration certificate. Now they will pay much more.
"We need to be able to get a handle on all the commercial operations taking place in the state," DLNR Boating Division administrator Ed Underwood said.
Under the Department of Land and Natural Resources amended rules, Waikiki catamaran companies will be subject to the same fees as operators in Kaanapali, Maui. They will pay $200 a month or three percent of their gross earnings for that time -- whichever is greater.
"We wanted to apply the same commercial fee that every other commercial boat in the state pays," Underwood said.
At a hearing before the state Board of Land and Natural Resources Friday, an attorney for several Waikiki catamaran companies said his clients weren't fighting the fees. But they wanted assurances.
"If you had your life on the line, would you want the government to have an undefined and unlimited discretion on whether or not you live? That's what these businesses are facing," George Lindsey said.
He told board members catamaran companies wanted the state to agree to automatically re-issue their operating certificates if they followed the rules.
Waikiki catamaran company owner George Parsons said without that concession, his business and others would be working under a cloud of uncertainty.
"It's a bit like musical chairs. You never know when the music is going to stop," he said.
In addition, owners wanted the rules amended to say if they sell their companies, they wouldn't be charged that three percent fee on the sales price.
Land board chairman William Aila assured them they would not be.
The amended rules are the result of years of discussions between the state and businesses that sell ocean activities.
"We can't cover every situation. We've tried to," Underwood said.
Catamaran owners wanted their stipulations in writing. The board said no and passed its amended rules as they are written.