Tuesday, February 12, 2008



by Larry Geller

The Advertiser's Christie Wilson (thanks, Cristie!) reports in some detail what has been discovered so far on the Superferry:

During Hawaii Superferry's first weeks of operation, passenger and vehicle screenings intercepted coolers of 'opihi and other marine resources, fishing nets, dozens of dead honeybees and an uncertified shipment of 50 orchid plants, according to an oversight task force report.

A total of 39 rules infractions were discovered from Dec. 13 to Jan. 6, all but five caught by screeners at Kahului Harbor.

This is an amazing confirmation that the Superferry can and is being used to carry invasive species and other stuff to and from Maui.

More from the article:

The rules infractions discovered by screeners checking outbound passengers at the Honolulu ferry terminal include the orchid shipment, various seeds that also lacked agricultural certification, and two fishing nets, the report said.

The Maui infractions included 13 instances in which vehicles were found to be excessively muddy; a lavender plant and two coconut plants without certification; a fishing net; two cases in which vehicles contained rocks, soil, sand, dirt or coral; two instances in which 'opihi, lobster or other crustaceans were discovered; and three cases of passengers attempting to transport cut logs, trees or tree limbs.

Randy Awo, DLNR's conservation and resource enforcement chief on Maui, said several Ziploc bags of legal-sized 'opihi were confiscated from a cooler whose owner said he was ignorant of the restrictions. There were several other cases since the reporting period in which Superferry passengers tried to take ogo, an edible seaweed, and other marine resources aboard the vessel, he said.

Although the various contraband violated the ferry's operating rules, not all involved violations of state conservation or agricultural laws, officials said.

No citations were issued, they said.

The passenger and vehicle screenings also turned up more than 100 dead honeybees or bee parts in engine compartments, on grilles or elsewhere in vehicles, but the dreaded varroa mite was not detected in any of the bugs, Cravalho said.

The mite is a threat to the state's multimillion-dollar honey, queen bee and pollination industry and is an invasive species priority.

The spread of invasive species and depletion of natural and subsistence resources were among the issues raised by groups that won a court decision last year halting the new high-speed interisland ferry pending an environmental assessment by the state Department of Transportation.

Let's interpret (read between the lines) a bit.

  • The article (and the report on which it's based) show that the ferry is being used to carry items that are forbidden. We don't know if all instances are caught or only some or most.
  • The state isn't taking these infractions at all seriously. The article confirms that there have been no—repeat, no—citations issued. A sidebar to the article reports that those three guys who tried to smuggle illegal rocks to Oahu are still at large:

The state has yet to move forward with charges against three men who came to Maui in August on the Hawaii Superferry allegedly to load their pickup trucks with river rocks and return to O'ahu.

  • Should inspections slacken off, stuff will get through.
  • Since only dead bees were inspected, the inspectors cannot say anything about whether mites are on the live ones they didn't catch.

Let's face it, there are plenty of people ready and willing to pick opihi and ship them on the ferry. Lots of folks with orchids all set to go as well. Bees want to hitchhike. Remember, they only found the dead ones. How many live bees enjoyed their ride from Oahu to Maui, carrying the deadly Varroa Destructor mite?

Speaking of mites, dead bees are not used to check for mites. All tests I've been able to find with Google depend on capturing live bees. Worse, the mites can live up to five days off of a bee, waiting to jump onto another one. Did they spray the cars that were carrying the dead bees? I'll bet not.

Now, let's apply some business logic to the matter of inspections.

Oil companies make barrels of money when oil is expensive. Are they motivated, then, to bring down the price of oil? No.

HECO makes money from selling expensive electricity to us. Should they be interested in buying cheaper wind-generated electricity from people? Of course not. Banks in Hawaii are exceedingly profitable, among the most profitable in the country. Will they therefore do us a favor by cutting exorbitant charges? Silly. Never.

So if people want to ship all kinds of things back and forth in their cars, why would any large capacity passenger ferry company cause them grief by inspecting their bags too closely? Why should our state government prosecute any violators? That would discourage ridership, wouldn't it?

I was surprised to learn that the famous alleged river rock smugglers have not yet been prosecuted. On the other hand, it would discourage others from riding the ferry, wouldn't it, if they had been.

Also, the article states that the opihi-shippers were unaware of the rules. Hey—that problem is so easy to solve. At airports they have these annoying announcements about unattended bags, what can be brought on board, and so on. Over and over again, they announce. Plus, there are signs posted. Only so many ounces of potentially deadly hair cream are allowed. You must have a quart plastic bag or forget about it. How to take your shoes off and put them in the tray.

There's also an amnesty box. Does the ferry terminal have one? Is it big enough for all the rocks?

The opihi-shippers could not claim ignorance of the rules if the state/ferry company took necessary steps to inform them of the rules.

And if they then cited those who break them anyway.

The report doesn't document those who got through, of course. MuddyI think mud was disallowed, yet here's a snap circulating by email of a vehicle with tires that look kind of muddy to me. I don't know how much mud is too much mud, but neither did this driver. He didn't wash it off before boarding the ferry. I wonder if whatever is being carried behind those dark-tinted windows was inspected either.

In short, the report tells at best only part of the story. Between the lines we learn that there are no consequences so far for trying to smuggle stuff through, and perhaps insufficient education about what is allowed. We learn that many people do try to move contraband between the islands.

A part of me also wants to know if the inspectors confiscated the bags of opihi, and just what did they do with them. Lunch?


The official screeners caught 34 of the 39 violations. That means that 5 violation, or approx 13% were found by someone else. Who is this someone else? Concerned citizens? DLNR? Can we assume that there were other violations that went undetected? If we assume that there were only 39 violations total 34 of 39 = 87%. Is that good enough, especially when DLNR decides it can't monitor the screeners any more? What's it going to be like in the best case scenario for Superferry, and ridership is 400+, weather is good? Say like in June, whenit's graduation season, and people want Opihi and other goodies for parties?

Am I thinking too much?

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