Invaders pose low ferry risk, expert says
WAILUKU » The manager of the state plant quarantine branch testified that the threat of invasive species being introduced by the Hawaii Superferry was "very little" because of its screening procedures and its low volume of cargo and passengers.
Carol Okada said in the time she's worked with Superferry officials, there has been "great compliance" with the passengers following requests for screening for invasive species.
Okada said requiring the washing of undercarriages of vehicles has some value but not great value, noting that the same procedure isn't followed by other larger interisland shippers, such as Young Brothers.
"It's not being done by those posing the greatest risks," Okada said.
Okada was called to testify on behalf of Superferry officials who are trying to get Maui Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza to allow them to operate while an environmental assessment about their operations at Kahului Harbor is completed.
Cardoza ordered a halt in the operations late last month, pending the outcome of the proceedings. The hearing continues Monday morning.
Okada said the Superferry could carry up to 200 small cars, compared with a Young Brothers' barge with 500 vehicles.
Okada said Superferry officials have been meeting with agricultural quarantine employees to develop rules for screening alien pests, including a requirement to open the trunk and hoods of vehicles boarding vessels.
"They simply make our job easier. ... They set a new standard," she said.
She said that while the state has the authority to order interisland shippers to open containers and vehicles, they are often locked, and to open each vehicle for inspection would be impractical.
"If we had to inspect all the cargo at Kahului Harbor, transportation wouldn't move," she said.
Under cross-examination, Okada said she had no scientific information to support her opinion about the low threat of invasive species by the Superferry.
She also said there was no written risk assessment to determine the number of state quarantine workers that should be assigned to inspect the Superferry.
Okada said she had made a recommendation for 14 full-time agricultural inspectors at the Kahului Airport and had nine at the airport and two at Kahului Harbor.
She said Superferry employees were trained for a day prior to the beginning of its operation, and she did not know exactly how many hours it took during that day.
She listed various alien insects that could be potentially harmful to Maui, including the varroa mite that has devastated bee hives and has been found only on Oahu.
Okada said the introduction of some alien species has had a major economic impact on Hawaii, including the fruit flies which has some markets to ban fruit exports from Hawaii.
She said the loss of markets due to fruit flies is $300 million, in addition to increasing costs to grow plants and pay for pesticides.