The recent visit of Swiss/Italian billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli’s 300-plus-foot mega yacht Vava II to Hawaiian waters brought back another round of discussions from local boating enthusiasts as to the need for proper berthing facilities for such vessels in our state. After all, Honolulu Harbor’s commercial wharfs are at present the only docks capable of handling them and they offer little of the amenities owners of such large yachts find desirable.
The problem in part is that Hawaii’s island of Oahu has relatively few natural harbors, and it isn’t likely there will be many new ones created due to environmental constraints. It then becomes increasingly likely that someday those who control the islands’ present harbors will need to learn to share.
The largest and best harbor in Hawaii of course is Pearl Harbor, which has been fully controlled and utilized by the U.S. Navy for over a century. And, except for Rainbow Marina (a small recreational boat facility for military personnel only) the harbor is home to military and other federal government vessels only.
Consider then just how Oahu’s distribution of marine facilities might look if the Navy were to allow commercial shippers a bit of dock space somewhere along Pearl Harbor’s lengthy shoreline.
With the Navy sharing its harbor with shipping companies like Matson or Pasha, and possibly even with the Coast Guard, some of the waterfront along Honolulu Harbor’s Sand Island could then become available for other uses.
It’s entirely possible that after such relocations, Sand Island’s harbor front could be redeveloped into a number of low-rise condo and marina complexes. What magnificent views those living there would have of downtown Honolulu’s famous “City Lights.”
Such a development, of course, would then require some sharing on the part of the state’s Department of Transportation that controls Honolulu Harbor’s operations.
Naturally in our post-9/11 world there are those who would immediately reject such harbor sharing as a security risk to both commercial shipping and to our Navy. However it would seem the idea isn’t too farfetched if you consider how many mixed-use, well-operated harbors there are strung along both coasts of the mainland U.S.
In California alone, San Diego, Long Beach, and San Francisco harbors, all have facilities for vessels ranging from super tankers and aircraft carriers to fishing boats and yachts of all sizes. And somehow they all seem to coexist.
One thing is certain. As Hawaii’s population continues to grow, and the demands on our maritime infrastructure continue to expand, every agency involved will be tasked to make all our harbors more efficient.
Maybe sharing would help.