Friendlys Against Pasha

Molokai Needs PUC Public Hearings on Inter-Island Shipping Decision

Opinion by Jeffrey S. Egusa, Friendly Market Center president and general manager

Young Brothers barge day is a big thing on Molokai, since that is how we receive and send most of our goods.  Though we always wish prices could be lower, we know Young Brothers is able to provide this service because it’s subsidized by profits at larger ports.  Molokai is not a profitable stop so this arrangement is vital to us. 

Knowing this, last year many of us in business expressed our concern to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) about Pasha Hawaii trying to compete unfairly with Young Brothers.  But the PUC chose to ignore our appeal and approved Pasha’s application without any public hearings.

As a Molokai resident and businessman, I oppose Pasha being allowed to serve Hilo, Kahului, and Nawiliwili ports, without being required to service Molokai or Lanai.  Pasha also will not ship refrigerated cargo or livestock; services which earn smaller profits. They also won’t provide agricultural discounts. Young Brothers offers such things which are vital not just to Molokai but the entire state.

Consider this: there is only a fixed amount of shipping business in Hawaii.  Although competition is usually a good thing, the PUC is allowing Pasha to “pick and choose” only the most profitable ports to do business in and leave smaller, “break-even or below cost”, ports for Young Brothers to carry alone.  Changing the economics of inter-island cargo service like this by forcing only Young Brothers, not Pasha, to carry unprofitable cargo puts Young Brothers at a financial disadvantage.

I am seriously concerned that our inter-island barge service will destabilize resulting in higher shipping costs, reduction in service days, elimination of the “less than container load” option, or loss of barge service all together. Our communities may be small, but I feel Molokai and Lanai deserve the same respect and consideration by the PUC that any other island would get.

The PUC should think long and hard about what their decision means to neighbor islands.  They should hold public hearings on all islands immediately.  Let’s start with Molokai.


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