Farmers complain about impact of Young Bros. plan
The interisland shipper wants to end its "less than container load" service to and from Maui
The Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation is asking the state Public Utilities Commission for permission to intervene in Young Brothers Ltd.'s plans to stop shipping "less than container load" cargo to and from Maui.
Young Brothers, which runs the state's largest interisland cargo shipping service, says the change is necessary because of a shortage of space at its facility at Kahului Harbor on Maui. That problem will only worsen, Young Brothers says, after it loses approximately a quarter of its space at Kahului to make way for the interisland Hawaii Superferry, a passenger service that is scheduled to begin serving several islands, including Maui, by the middle of next year.
If granted, the farm bureau federation's request would let the organization participate in hearings before the PUC as the commission decides whether to allow Young Brothers to make the change.
Allowing Young Brothers to make the change will hurt farmers, the federation says.
"This proposed change will put Hawaii's farmers, especially those on the neighbor islands, at a severe marketing and sales disadvantage," said Dean Okimoto, president of the farm bureau. "It will devastate neighbor island agriculture."
Glenn Hong, president of Young Brothers, said company executives met with farm bureau officials yesterday to discuss the problems facing the shipper and the farmers, and to begin discussing ways to solve them.
For Young Brothers, it's a matter of space. The firm already is squeezed, particularly for space at its staging area, where trucks drop off the goods that Young Brothers consolidates and packs into containers.
Young Brothers is about to lose half of that staging space to the ferry, Hong said. That means it will be impossible to run the facility as it is now being run, he said. The only solution, he said, appears to be to quit consolidated freight at Kahului.
Hong likened the current situation to trying to carry 25 pounds of rice in a 20-pound bag.
"Next year, we're going to have a 15-pound bag and 30 pounds of rice to move," he said.
A solution is to let farmers and others rely on third-party freight consolidators, which specialize in packing small amounts of cargo into containers and receiving them after shipment.
Although some people have expressed concern about increased costs of using the consolidators, Hong said that relying on them would likely create efficiencies that might reduce handling costs.
Alan Takemoto, executive director with the Farm Bureau, said that yesterday's meeting with Young Brothers was productive. But Takemoto said there are still a number of issues that must be addressed, including whether there are sufficient consolidators on Maui to fill the void Young Brothers would leave.
Plus, Takemoto said, there's the question of "how it plays out financially for the farmer."
Ultimately, Takemoto agreed with Hong that the root problem is a paucity of dock space.
"The harbors are being squeezed and are being overutilized, and that's a big part in this," Takemoto said. "What happens if another island goes through this?"
Officials with the state Department of Transportation's public affairs office did not return calls.