Commercial harbors to close ahead of Olivia
Commercial harbors in Hawaii are scheduled to close before tropical storm force winds from Olivia hit. But the shut down of those ports are forcing some ships into stormy waters.
Commercial harbors in Hawaii are scheduled to close before tropical storm force winds from Olivia hit.
But the shut down of those ports are forcing some ships into stormy waters.
The small crew of the Ao Shibi IV is prepping their fishing boat to leave Honolulu Harbor, one of 9 commercial ports around the state, which will shut down before sustained winds over 40 mph from Tropical Storm Olivia arrive.
"The port is very vital to Hawaii. 80% of goods that are consumed are imported and 99% of them come through our ports," said U.S Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Levasseur.
The state wants to make sure that will continue after Tropical Storm Olivia passes. So it is forcing fishing boats and other commercial ships to leave.
"Most of the ships are used to being gone, out at sea for an extended period of time. So we feel for the safety of vessel and crew, the best place to be is out at sea and not at the pier," said Tim Sakahara, with the State Dept. of Transportation.
But some small boat captains disagree.
"I think we should be able to stay here, it is the safest harbor in the state," said Michael Abe, the captain of the Ao Shibi IV.
Some fishing boats spend a lot of time in the open ocean, but Abe stated tropical storm conditions are too much for his 60 ft boat to handle, "Waves would just come up over the deck and crash down. All it takes is one of these holes to get plugged and if another wave comes then we are going to go down. That is how it is. Which is why we don't go in rough water."
When ocean conditions are to rough, Abe said he normally would stay put.
He tried to do that when Hurricane Lane approached the state. He claims to have filed a heavy water plan with the Dept. of Transportation and even bought $1,000 worth of additional chains and ropes to secure his ship.
"We bought all the chains and buoys, and wait for them to get back to us. But instead of allowing us to stay, they told us if we didn't get out we would face a fine of $10,000 and be banned from the harbor for one year," stated Abe.
Sakahara said the state required more than just a well tied boat.
"Some ships can have an approved heavy weather plan that states how they will tie up safely and will have the crew stay with vessel. They will also have to show they will have tug with the vessel. Should there be an emergency, that tug will be there to assist," added Sakahara.
Because there are only a limited number of tug boats, there are only a handful of ships that will be allowed to stay in Honolulu Harbor. Which will prevent damage to this lifeline for the islands.
"Worst case scenario, there could be pollution by having the vessels bang up against one another or a ship sinks. That would block traffic for a long time and we don't want that to happen," added Levasseur.
But Abe feels sending ships into the storm is putting their lives on the line for the sake of the state ports.
"It is better to let the boats sink in the harbor, than to have us die," Abe said.
Honolulu Harbor was put under Condition Yankee by the Coast Guard Monday at 6pm. A warning that gale force winds are expected within 24 hours. It also gives boat owners and captains notice, the busy harbor could be shut down in 12 hours.
Along with Honolulu Harbor, other Oahu commercial harbors were put under Condition Yankee. While the commercial ports on the Big Island and Maui will go to Condition Zulu at 8 pm, which means all traffic in and out will stop.