Hawaii's Shipping Industry Ready for Major Hurricane

Dale Hazlehurst
Dale Hazlehurst

HONOLULU (KHNL) - A category 4 or 5 hurricane could paralyze the shipping industry. That would cause a major impact to Hawaii's economy as the majority of our food and other supplies come by sea.

But a local company says it has plans for a worst-case scenario.

Matson Navigation Company is the biggest shipping company in Hawaii.

"Roughly through our gates on a busy day, we'll move about 1,200 containers," said Dale Hazlehurst, a marine operations manager for the company.

That translates to about a million containers a year. After 125 years in the business, Matson has shipping down to a science.

"So we plan everything in great detail, right down to where we put our container on a ship," said Hazlehurst.

In an industry that depends on good ocean conditions, a category 4 hurricane on Oahu's west shores could cripple the shipping industry.

But if that happens, Matson has a contingency plan. Ships like this will go out to sea and a crisis team will spring into action.

It works with state and federal agencies.

"Our process is initial tracking of the storm and we work with the Coast Guard, and NOAA to try to evolve the best scenario for our vessels," said Hazlehurst.

Matson could lose up to $4.2 million a day if its operations stop. So it stays prepared because of the uncertain nature of the industry.

"Tomorrow there might be a terrorist event or a tsunami," said Hazlehurst. "We've had several tsunami warnings already this year. So we need to be prepared and people need to know their place in the structure if something like this occurs."

Staying prepared for nature's unpredictable ways.

The U.S. Navy also has a contingency plan. In fact, it just completed its annual hurricane exercise, simulating response to a category 4 hurricane.