Molokai residents
divided over stops
by cruise ships

Passengers miss a protest when
winds cancel a port call

By Gary Kubota

KAUNAKAKAI, Molokai >> Part-time saleswoman Lani Sawyer said she supports the arrival of cruise ships to Molokai and doesn't agree with her uncle, Walter Ritte Jr., and others who demonstrated yesterday against it.

"I kind of got upset," Sawyer said. "I think they're overdoing it."

The Holland America Line ship Statendam stopped a few miles offshore from Kaunakakai Harbor yesterday morning for the first time, but passengers did not come ashore.

Hui Ho'opakele Aina spokesman Walter Ritte Jr. said his group plans to resume its protest against cruise ships on Molokai on Jan. 22, the next time a ship is scheduled to arrive.

The Statendam was rerouted to Kona yesterday after winds reached 50 knots and seas 3 to 4 feet, making disembarkation from the ship to a shuttle difficult, especially for many passengers who are elderly, said state harbor patrol officer Henry Koa.

Nearly 150 protesters were waiting at the harbor for the passengers. They held placards saying, "Cruise ships pollute" and "No aloha for cruise ships." But an even greater number of people were preparing to greet the visitors at a hoolaulea with entertainment, food and craft sales in Kaunakakai town.

On an island with a little more than 7,000 residents and a main town with a handful of grocery stores, disagreeing with anyone can become uncomfortable fast when you and your children shop at the same places and attend the same schools. So the conflict over cruise ship arrivals has put a strain on families and friends.

"The island is split down the middle," said Kim Tempo, weekend supervisor for Molokai Outdoor Activities. "It's really hard."

The protest group Hui Ho'opakele Aina says Molokai can attract visitors through other means, including increasing promotion of the ferry between Lahaina and Molokai.

Hui Ho'opakele members say cruise ships worldwide, including the Statendam's parent company Holland America Line, have been cited scores of times for pollution violations.

Dive activity owner William Kapuni said even if the ships don't discharge harmful chemicals and alien species from their ballast tanks, they will be wrecking the island's pristine reefs by dropping their anchors and chains off Molokai.

"We're just really selling this place out to look like a zoo or Disneyland," Kapuni said. As a native Hawaiian, Kapuni said, it was his duty to preserve Molokai's environment and culture.

Members say that with its limited number of public facilities, including restrooms, the island is ill-equipped to accommodate the passengers.

"People just swarm into town and leave, and they really don't do anything for the community," said resident Nat Bacon.

But other Molokai residents say they're more worried about the lack of business and jobs.

While its economy has been improving, it still has the highest unemployment rate in the state -- 8.8 percent in October.

Molokai Visitors Association officials estimate that each day trip by the Statendam would generate about $131,000 in business to Molokai.

About 800 to 1,000 of the ship's 1,200 passengers were expected to come ashore for a variety of planned activities such as a whale watch, mule rides and other sightseeing opportunities, said Sandy Beddow, executive director of the Molokai Visitors Association.

Beddow said the Statendam's visit would have been an opportunity to show "that it's OK, and the infrastructure can handle it and nothing will be damaged."

The Statendam and two other ships are scheduled to make six stops on the island next year.

Sawyer said she's in favor of a few stops by the Statendam.

"We need more jobs and business," she said.

She said she works full-time as an educational assistant, but has to work weekends at craft fairs to help support her family.

Jolyn Lalim, 19, a former Molokai resident, said the arrival of cruise ships on the island means more money.

"I just moved to Maui because of the lack of jobs," Lalim said.

Holland America Line spokeswoman Rose Abello said the Statendam has complied with all regulations regarding its stop on Molokai.

"In addition, the ship's call is endorsed and welcomed by the Molokai Visitors Association, Hawaii's Gov. Linda Lingle and Maui County Mayor-elect Alan Arakawa," she said.

The Statendam is scheduled to arrive on Molokai again on Jan. 22, the same day Hui Ho'opakele Aina is seeking a preliminary injunction in Maui Circuit Court to halt it from stopping on the Friendly Isle.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --