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National Park Service Announces Date for Kalaupapa Barge

By Melissa Kelsey

For Kalaupapa residents waiting to hear if and when this year’s barge delivery would be made to the peninsula, an announcement last Friday assuring their life-line delivery came as a relief to many. The settlement’s annual barge that delivers fuel, food and equipment will sail on August 1 from Honolulu to Kalaupapa, according to Kalaupapa National Park Service (NPS) Superintendent Steve Prokop. Because of a shortage in the fuel supply delivered last year, the settlement has already been observing strict fuel rations since last winter.

For the first time in Kalaupapa’s history, Prokop said the NPS secured a five-year contract with Young Brothers to manage a barge delivery to Kalaupapa every summer through 2014. Before this year, the NPS has negotiated a barge delivery contract and sailing date on an annual basis.

Normally set in the spring, the announcement of the sailing date was delayed this year because the extended five-year contract needed special approval from solicitors at the NPS regional headquarters, according to Prokop. Over the next four years, Prokop said the barge sailing date will be determined earlier in the year, probably in the fall.

Choosing the Boat

The five-year contract is between the NPS and Young Brothers to manage the annual barge delivery. However, Prokop said Young Brothers has not had a barge small enough to fit inside Kalaupapa’s narrow harbor since 2007. Last year, Young Brothers subcontracted a company called American Marine to supply the barge itself. American Marine won the subcontract again this year after at least three vendors competed to supply the barge. Young Brothers will still have to negotiate a vendor to provide the barge on an annual basis for the next four years.

“Young Brothers will tow the barge, but not their barge,” said Prokop.

Securing the Future

Prokop said American Marine is the only company located in the State of Hawaii that has a barge small enough for the Kalaupapa harbor. The other vendors who bid on the contract are out-of-state companies. To secure reliable barge service for the future, Prokop said the NPS is working with Hawaii Senator J. Kalani English to determine if there is a legal route for the State of Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to require Young Brothers to provide barge service to Kalaupapa.

“We are seeing if there is some way a state agency can require safe and reliable barge service for the Kalaupapa community,” said Prokop. 

Last April, the NPS conducted a series of public scoping meetings to discuss the possibility of Kalaupapa harbor improvements, including dredging. The dredging caused environmental concerns, but would increase the width of the harbor, allowing larger barges to service the peninsula to increase delivery reliability.

Prokop said the extended contract “solves the dredging problem for five years.” While the contract does not solve the long-term problem of the dwindling availability of barges for Kalaupapa, there is now no immediate need to widen the harbor’s channel.

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