Would a disaster cripple shipping to Hawaii? State officials disagree

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With more than five miles of linear docking space and 200 acres of cargo storage, Honolulu Harbor is by far the most expansive port in the state.

And a new report written from the state's deputy adjutant general said a lack of equipment to get it up and running after a disaster could cripple the state

In fact, the report claims the government has no heavy salvage or dredging equipment. Without it, any port damage would result in a loss of mass importation for up to one month.

That's a conclusion, though, that not everyone agrees with.

"If you're talking about container ships, that's probably correct," said Darrell Young, deputy director of the Harbors Division. "But in the event of such an incident, we would probably be reverting to tug and barge operations as well as what we call roll-on and roll-off or container and roll-off type operations."

Some 98 percent of good coming into Hawaii arrive on cargo ships.

Young, who oversees the state's harbors, says if Honolulu Harbor were somehow obstructed, other harbors could take smaller shipments.

But, he stressed, the cargo could still come in.

"In the event of something obstructing Honolulu Harbor we have Kilo Pier in Pearl Harbor," Young said. "We have Kalaeloa Harbor in which we brought a crane over from Kahului so we can work that side for the west side people. We also have three different locations within Honolulu that we have identified."

In an emergency situation, Young added that the state would work with shippers so cargo that would usually come through Honolulu could be delivered directly to the outer islands. Food and emergency needs would take priority over other cargo.

Without a steady stream of cargo coming in, it's estimated there is less than a weeks worth of food in Hawaii.

State Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara says a new container terminal currently in the works will also help expand the capacity.

"That's going to add 84 acres in storage space. And 1800 linear feet of berthing space. That means two of those big shipping containers will be able to fit in there," he said.

Construction on the Kapalama Container Terminal begins next week and is expected to be finished in 2022.

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