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Harbor Security Relaxed

Cruise dialogue evolves

The wharf was relatively empty and quiet at the Safari Explorer’s last port call to Kaunakakai last Tuesday, with only about a dozen residents holding protest signs. For that, officials thanked Molokai, and said it will be the last time a security zone is enforced for the yacht’s dockings through May, if all goes smoothly.

“We thank the community for showing the correct amount of balance at the pier [on Jan. 21],” said Department of Land and Natural Resources (DNLR) Chairperson William Aila. 

At the 36-passenger Safari Explorer’s first docking for nearly two months on Jan. 21, U.S. Coast Guard, state sheriffs and local law enforcement guarded a large security zone encompassing the Kaunakakai Wharf. The zone’s purpose was to ensure the safety of possible protesters in the water and to allow the lawful passage of the Safari Explorer to dock in the harbor, according to officials.  

While dozens of residents showed up to legally protest, no one entered the water to obstruct the yacht and no arrests were made. Because of this, officials scaled back their presence at last Tuesday’s docking. Aila confirmed it would be the last security zone enforcement. 

In addition to reduced security forces, officials also changed the yacht’s docking and consequent security zone enforcement beginning at 9:30 a.m. rather than 6:30 a.m., and enforced the zone for 20 minutes instead one and a half hours, as on Jan. 21. 

Legal Control of Tourism

At a community meeting held last Monday by state and Coast Guard officials to explain the reduced security, several community members asked if special rules could be created to limit and control tourism to Molokai in the future. 

Aila said currently, there are no administrative rules that allow for the creation of such regulations.” 

“It’s not been done before but we are willing to have that discussion,” Aila said.” The community would like to have a say in how much tourism there is and how it comes.” 

He added that it takes a minimum of one year to change the Hawaii Revised Statues, which would allow for such new rules. “We hear you loud and clear, but that process takes some time,” he said. 

During an interview with the Dispatch, Aila added that the community needs to come forward with “some indication of direction… what it is the community wants in terms of tourism.” 

Even though there are no laws requiring it, Deputy Director of the Department of Transportation Randy Grune said officials will consult with the Molokai community if another similar visitor industry expresses interest in making Molokai stops.

“We are aware of your concerns so we will come to the community if someone approaches us wanting to come,” he assured residents. 

Environmental Concerns

Other community members raised concerns about the possible environmental effects of the yacht’s visit. 

Lori Buchanan of the Maui/Molokai Invasive Species Committee said the Safari Explorer is dumping trash on Molokai that it accumulates on Hawaii Island, Maui and Lanai. She said she is worried that unwanted pests may be entering Molokai through this practice. 

“How am I going to respond to invasive species coming in?” she asked officials. 

“Molokai is the cleanest island right now,” said Chevy Lavasa, a Department of Agriculture employee on Molokai. “Because there was no EA [environmental assessment], we didn’t know they were dumping trash.”

Aila said because the Safari Explorer’s docking is considered a normal harbor activity and doesn’t require any changes to existing facilities, an EA for its visit was not required. He added that dumping trash on the island is legal, but that if residents were concerned about the issue, he could “work with operator on the trash issue.”

“There is nothing against the law right now that prevents them from dumping trash,” he said. 

American Safari Cruises officials were not available on Friday to comment. 

Nod to Economics

Despite community concerns about American Safari Cruises’ operations on Molokai, a financial report released by the company last week points to economic benefits for the island. The fact sheet states that during its two-day Molokai stop, the vessel generates $14,300 to $18,800 per visit. 

Guest educational activities – such as tours of Halawa Valley, visits to farms like Purdy’s Macadamia Nut Farm and Molokai Plumerias, and a pa`ina and cultural evening at the Molokai Museum – account for $9,500 to $11,000 per visit. Supplies purchased for the yacht totals $1,500, moorage fees and expenses accounts for $1,300, and guest and crew spending on the island ranges from $2,000 to $5,000 per visit, according to the American Safari Cruises document. 

Between October 2011 and May 2012, the Safari Explorer is scheduled to make 17 visits to the island. 


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