Bulk of islands’ goods come through ports now shut
Hawaii’s shipping companies are on lockdown after the US Coast Guard sent its sternest weather warning about the impending approach of Hurricane Lane.
The US Coast Guard set port condition Zulu for the entire state of Hawaii in advance of Lane‘s arrival. The port condition means all inbound and outbound shipping traffic will be closed until the storm passes and damage assessment surveys are complete.
The National Weather service said at its last warning that Hurricane Lane was a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 140 miles per hour. It has not yet made landfall on the Hawaiian islands, but was expected to do so by Friday.
Port condition Zulu closes the island state’s main source for imported goods at Oahu’s port. The islands depend on imports for 80% of their consumer goods, with almost all of that coming through Honolulu.
The Hawaii Department of Transportation had no data readily available on container volumes to the island. But Jones Act shipping company Matson, which has the largest market share in the state, reported 38,600 of forty foot equivalent units moving in Hawaii during the second quarter.
Matson and the state’s other incumbent shipper, Pasha Group, say they have prepared for the impending storm by discharging what containers they could in the time before the closure, and then sending ships out to sea to ride out Lane.
Matson is continuing to sail its vessels on a normal schedule to position inbound cargo for discharge once the ports reopen.
Matson’s 2,824-teu Mahimahi discharged about half its containers on Wednesday with the other half expected to be discharged when the port reopens.
In total, Matson said 665 containers of goods were at its Honolulu terminal ready for pick up.
Four other Matson vessels carrying 3,500 containers are scheduled to make port call Saturday through next Wednesday, They will be positioned for service as soon as Honolulu Harbor is reopened, Matson said.
Pasha Group said in a statement that its Horizon Pacific container ship made a limited discharge Wednesday in Honolulu but has transited to a safe location to wait out the storm.
As of now, Pasha expects to have the Horizon Pacific in Honolulu port by Saturday, after Hurricane Lane is expected to pass, the company said.
Pasha says other regular sailings are expected to arrive on Sunday and Wednesday. It also has a reserve vessel on standby on the US West Coast for emergency deliveries.
But the ability of sailings to recover will hinge on what happens at Sand Island, Honolulu’s largest container port and Matson’s main terminal. Michael Hansen, the head of the Hawaii Shippers Council, says the islands could face cargo interruptions up to week.
If the gantry cranes at Sand Island are damaged, that could create a longer interruption, with the potential that self-unloading ships would be needed to resupply Hawaii. But Hansen notes that no such ships exist in the Jones Act fleet.