Harbor officials eye fee increase


POSTED: Wednesday, November 25, 2009

State harbors officials plan to increase user fees statewide to finance $618 million in repairs and improvement at harbors on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island.

But cruise lines are opposed to the fee increases in the slow economy, including a jump to $20 from about $10.55 per passenger aboard domestic cruise lines.

“;We are concerned that the increase proposed by the Harbors Division will make Hawaii a less attractive cruise destination, especially when compared to destinations that can be served with shorter, less expensive cruises,”; said John Hansen, president of the North West CruiseShip Association.

State Harbors Division chief Michael Formby said the increases will be less than what West Coast harbors charge cruise ship passengers and are needed to meet the cost of repairs and expansion.

Formby said the state spent $30 million to improve pier facilities at Honolulu Harbor to accommodate three ships and has been left with less than expected activity after two cruise ships left the islands.

“;We're saying it's time the cruise industry pays its fair share,”; Formby said.





        State officials are scheduled to hold public hearings—each starting at 10 a.m. except for the Lanai hearing, which starts at 6 p.m.—about proposed harbor fee increases:

» Monday at the state Harbors Division office at 79 S. Nimitz Highway
        » Tuesday at the state harbor conference room in Hilo at 80 Kuhio St.
        » Next Wednesday at the Kahului Harbor conference room at 103 Ala Luina St. on Maui
        » Dec. 3 at the Nawiliwili harbor conference room on Kauai
        » Dec. 4 at the Kaunanakai Elementary School on Molokai
        » Dec. 4 at the Lanai High School cafeteria


Cruise ship officials said they contributed $6.5 million in harbor fees alone in 2008, and many of their Hawaii pier facilities lack proper fenders and bollards, the posts used for mooring lines.

Other proposed fee increases include a staggered hike in domestic 40-foot container fees to about $168 from $77 by 2015.

The Hawaii Harbors Users Group, an organization of 15 shipping-related businesses including Matson Navigation, said the proposed increases will not have a severe impact on businesses.

Group Executive Director Gary J. North said his coalition members support the tariff increases because they realize the repairs and expansions are needed to improve efficiencies in operation.

North said that according to one study, businesses could lose up to $50 billion due to a lack of efficiency at Hawaii harbors by 2030 unless improvement are made to the facilities.

Formby said a study found the proposed container fee increases will have a negligible impact on the price of consumer goods, raising the price of a 20-pound bag of rice eventually by 4 cents.

He said the study showed the cost of doing nothing will actually raise the price of goods higher than if the harbors are improved, because of growing inefficiencies in delivery.

Formby said the state wants to focus on about $120 million in maintenance and repair of facilities in the next five years because of the slow economy. Expansion will take place when the economy improves, he said.

Projects include the development of a new 70-acre container yard at Honolulu Harbor, expansion of the east end of Kahului Harbor, construction of a fourth pier in Hilo and expanded barge and terminal facilities at Kawaihae.