HONOLULU (KHON) — An investigation is underway as to what caused 21 shipping containers to go overboard Monday morning off of Hawaii island.
The Coast Guard said it responded to a report of lost cargo from the barge Ho Omaka Hou as the tug Hoku Loa, and their barge, was transiting to Hilo Harbor on Monday.
In a press release, the Coast Guard said it is investigating the incident, and Young Brothers is working with a salvage team to locate and recover as many containers as possible. No injuries were reported.
“Watchstanders issued a broadcast notice to mariners to alert any traffic in the area to keep a sharp lookout for any containers that may pose a hazard to navigation,” the Coast Guard said.
According to the Coast Guard, “the tug operator reported that at 4:30 a.m. Monday, several 40-foot shipping containers fell overboard. That number currently stands at 21. Nine of those have been located, 12 remain missing. The crew of the tug and barge Ho Omaka Hou recognized the containers were missing after mooring in Hilo. Containers are reportedly adrift approximately 8 miles north of Hilo, and one is reported adrift in Hilo Harbor.”
The Coast Guard said it is working with Young Brothers personnel to assess the situation further, including determining what cargo was lost.
It’s unknown still what was inside the containers.
Senator Kai Kahele (D-Hilo) shared photos of a Young Brothers barge. He said he believes the ship was overloaded and there were too many containers on board.
“After talking to people that have seen Young Brothers barge loaded before, this was not a normal way the barge is loaded,” he said.
“They loaded it five high on the stern and that’s not something that typically happens and what appears to be containers that were on the bottom that collapsed caused containers on the top to topple over. It appears the barge wasn’t loaded properly and if anything, it was overloaded,” he continued.
In May, Young Brothers asked the state for $25 million in CARES Act funds to stay afloat and reduced shipping to Hilo and Maui from twice a week to once a week.
“It would appear as though they’re maxing out the barge and putting as much as they can on there and obviously, we had problems last night,” Sen. Kahele said.
He said the legislature hasn’t made a decision yet on funding.
“This is concerning to me, the fact we have reduce shipping to east Hawaii and a port that exports 2.2 million pounds of agriculture to the rest of the state,” Sen. Kahele said.
“This is affecting local farmers; this is going to effect the agriculture industry and we absolutely need two weekly sails to Hilo Harbor to prevent this from happening and also make sure we don’t cripple the ag industry.”
“Young Brothers has been in business in Hawaii for a long, long time, and they are the lifeline to neighbor islands and we need to continue that,” Sen. Kahele continued. “A lot of small farmers, and a lot of small businesses depend on reliable inter-island shipment and commerce across the state.”
Chris Martin, Director of Terminal Operations for Young Brothers said in a statement:
“Earlier today, an incident on a barge traveling from Honolulu resulted in containers falling overboard as the vessel approached Hilo Bay.
“We have deployed a team of investigators to work closely with state and federal officials in determining the cause of the incident.
“Once the site has been declared safe, we will determine the number of containers impacted and contact affected customers. Young Brothers has a salvage company in place to assist with developing and executing a plan to retrieve the containers.”
The Coast Guard said at the time of the incident, the weather was east winds at 12 mph, waves to 4 feet with a south swell at 3 feet, and isolated showers.
Later this afternoon, Jay Griffin, chair of the Public Utilities Commission said in a statement:
“The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission today received a preliminary briefing and directed Young Brothers to immediately file an incident report regarding the shipping containers that fell from its barge this morning. The Commission takes this situation very seriously and will receive regular updates from Young Brothers as information becomes available. This information will be publicly available from the PUC after it is submitted. The PUC is focused on ensuring safe and reliable service from the water carrier, and expects a comprehensive report upon completion of the investigation.”