GARY T. KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Newspaper deliverer Dennis Nakano was one neighbor island vendor lamenting delays yesterday due to Aloha Airlines' cargo shutdown. He waited until 7 a.m. for mainland newspapers bound for hotels, four hours later than usual.
Hard-hit flower sellers explore shipping options
WAILUKU » Freight was backed up at least several hours and Hawaii's flower industry seemed to be wilting under the fallout from the closing of Aloha Air's cargo services.
"It has greatly handicapped my business right now," said Heather Calvert, owner of Maui Wholesale Flower Exchange. "It's very scary. ... What's next?"
Calvert, who imports flowers worldwide, said the cargo crisis has created costly delays in floral deliveries and made people apprehensive about the future of the flower industry.
Calvert said Aloha Airlines was designed to ship freight and had airplanes dedicated to carrying cargo, along with an online tracking system.
She said Hawaiian Airlines carries cargo in its passenger flights, but its main focus has been to transport passengers and has no online tracking system for freight.
Calvert, who imports flowers from the Big Island and exports to other places including Kauai, said she could ship flowers on Aloha in the morning and expect the flowers to be delivered to another island by the afternoon.
She said now the delivery is on the next day and there's no way to track its progress online to make sure it gets there.
Meanwhile, the Hawaii Superferry is experiencing a pickup in calls and bookings, said its president, Thomas Fargo.
Fargo said the Superferry is taking a look at how it can arrange cargo on its vessel to make sure it can accommodate the demand, in light of additional capacity starting May 9 when a second round trip is added between Maui and Oahu.
"As we see demand ramp up, we'll make adjustments as necessary," he said.
Superferry officials said Love's Bakery Inc. has a driver and a truck going from Oahu to Maui to make deliveries of its products and that freight forwarders can use the same method to make deliveries.
Eric Tanouye, president of the 400-member Hawaii Florists and Shippers Association, said there are a good number of alternatives for interisland cargo, but shippers have to know how to use them.
Hawaiian has cargo space on its passenger planes, but federal security regulations prohibit sending packages unless a person is traveling with them or the sender is a "known shipper" to Hawaiian, he said.
However, a sender with no prior experience with Hawaiian can use a company such as Commodity Forwarders, which is a "known shipper," he said.
Another alternative is for association members to use space on FedEx planes contracted by the association. FedEx isn't subject to the "known shipper" rule because it has no passengers, he said.
Waimea tomato grower Raymond Kawamata considered switching to a refrigerated container on a Young Brothers barge, but such containers are typically too cold, making tomatoes mushy.
Kawamata was exploring whether setting the temperature on a refrigerated container at 50 degrees would deliver firm, tasty tomatoes to Honolulu. Tomatoes have a shelf life of two or three weeks.
Star-Bulletin staff writer Rod Thompson contributed to this report.