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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, September 12, 2001

America's bloodiest day

Hawai'i businesses feel impact of attacks

By Susan Hooper
Advertiser Staff Writer

Companies in Hawai'i measured the ripple effects of yesterday's terrorist attacks in closed business, missed air freight pick-ups, delayed delivery of supplies and restricted access to military customers.

Some businesses in downtown Honolulu closed early for the day, and some retailers never opened at all. Investment firms such as Morgan Stanley, which had offices in the World Trade Center, were closed yesterday by about 2 p.m. Some retailers, including most of Ala Moana Center, were closed for the day.

Other businesses stepped up security. Verizon Hawai'i was on a "high security alert," advising employees to wear their identification badges and posting a security guard at the entrance to the company's garage, said spokeswoman Ann Nishida.

The closing of airports nationwide also had an immediate impact on firms sending and receiving goods.

Asia Pacific Flowers, an orchid grower in Kapoho, Hawai'i, could not ship 20 boxes of plants and 10 boxes of cut flowers that normally would have been flown to the Mainland by Federal Express, company bookkeeper Imelda Pitpit said. She valued the shipment at about $4,000.

"We don't have a Fed Ex pickup, so our boxes are stranded here," she said.

Seiji Kumagawa, owner of Sushi Sasabune on South King Street, said he was unable to receive a daily shipment of fresh fish that normally is flown in by the owner of his sister restaurant in Los Angeles. "Today our fish supply is cut off," Kumagawa said yesterday. "I can open tonight, but with very limited fish variations. Usually, I have more than 25 different variations of fish."

Kelvin Shigemura, vice president of Armstrong Produce Ltd., said his firm called customers yesterday to alert them to the effects of the shutdown of air transportation.

"Basically all of our air freight inbound has been cancelled ... so we're calling our customers up and letting them know that at least for tomorrow we may be out of mushrooms and strawberries and the highly perishable items," he said.

Security restrictions at Hawai'i military bases meant that grocery wholesaler Y. Hata & Co. Ltd. was unable to deliver to most of its military customers, said John Smiley, the firm's director of sales. He estimated military sales represent close to 25 percent of the firm's daily deliveries.

"We haven't gotten back much information at this point," Smiley said of his military accounts. "We don't know whether we will be able to deliver tomorrow or not."

The closing of the airports had an immediate impact on Hawai'i businesses, but the majority of goods coming into the Islands arrive by boat.

At some West Coast ports, incoming vessels are facing additional security precautions and U.S. Coast Guard checks. And at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union walked off the job yesterday because of safety worries, spokesmen for both ports said.

Jeff Hull, public relations manager of Matson Navigation Co., said workers at both ports were expected to go back to work last night. Matson is the leading shipping company traveling between Honolulu and the West Coast.

Hull said he expects the effect on Matson ships of the additional security precautions and the temporary port shutdowns to be "really minimal," with delays in travel between the West Coast and Honolulu measured in "hours" rather than days.

"There will be some impact, but at this point it does not appear that the disruption would be noticeable to Hawai'i's consumers," Hull said.

Tourism officials on Maui noticed the impact immediately yesterday when the summit of Haleakala National Park, perhaps Maui's top tourist attraction, was closed by the National Park Service, prompting several tour companies to either cancel summit tours or redirect them to other areas of the island.

Minoru Inouye of Polynesian Adventure Tours said 90 percent of the company's business was lost, including transportation for Neighbor Island packages, airport-hotel transfers and trips to the summit of Haleakala.

Inouye said he's anticipating losses to be just as big today. "It really sets us back,'' he said. "We're just kind of in a holding pattern.''

Advertiser Maui bureau reporter Tim Hurley and Bloomberg News Service contributed to this story.