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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 6, 2006

ML&P proposes freight services

By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Staff Writer

Maui Land & Pineapple Co. wants to offer Maui businesses freight consolidation services and ship noncontainerized cargo via the Hawaii Superferry, but Superferry officials oppose part of the plan.

ML&P's proposal is in response to Young Brothers' request to discontinue its "less-than-container-load service" to and from Kahului Harbor Jan. 1. Young Brothers, Hawai'i's largest interisland cargo provider, has said there won't be enough room at the harbor for the service when the state reallocates 23 percent of its existing Kahului facility early next year to prepare for Hawaii Superferry operations.

The discontinued service would require smaller shippers to use a freight consolidator, and at least some Maui small businesses fear that would bring higher costs and possible shipping delays.

ML&P is proposing to use its existing staging and storage facilities in Kahului to consolidate goods and ship them with roll-on, roll-off vehicles on the Superferry. The company announced the proposal Monday at a hearing before the Public Utilities Commission, which will make a decision on Young Brothers' request to end the service.

ML&P, which invested $603,000 in Hawaii Superferry in 2004, said the plan would allow Maui small businesses to ship less-than-container-load cargo via the Superferry at the same rates they are currently paying Young Brothers. Hawaii Superferry plans to start daily passenger and vehicle service among O'ahu, Maui and Kaua'i in mid-2007 and expand with another ferry to the Big Island by 2009.

But ML&P's proposal faces some significant challenges. ML&P wants to waive a Superferry requirement that a driver accompany each vehicle on the Superferry.

ML&P wants one trained safety officer to accompany vehicles holding consolidated goods, with drivers meeting the vehicles at the receiving port.

Hawaii Superferry, however, has maintained that a driver must accompany each vehicle and has no plans to change that requirement, spokesman Terry O'Halloran said.

He also said that "every commercial company will be treated equally."

ML&P also is requesting that the Public Utilities Commission approve a pricing structure that would favor common carriers with guaranteed space on the Superferry and provide additional discounts for volume-based shipping. ML&P also said it needs a "fast track" for its licenses to be in place by early December.

ML&P corporate communications director Teri Freitas Gorman said: "We think that Superferry and the appropriate agencies need to seriously sit down and talk about alternatives that will enable small businesses and particularly small farmers to be able to retain affordable shipping between the islands."

Reach Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com.