Aloha Ocean Charter Operators,
This week brought big news for everyone; commercial use permits have been re-instated! Many commercial charter companies have been contacting DLNR as well as other departments of government, asking for their permits to be reinstated. It likely would have taken longer to get to this point without that effort. So, thank you for this effort! I’m sure there are mixed feelings for many reasons, but when tourists return you will be ready and in operation. Hopefully many of our kama‘aina and neighbors are willing to support our small businesses and book charters to go fishing, diving, snorkeling, sailing or an evening watching the sunset.
Other big news in Hawai‘i was released yesterday. On O‘ahu, bars, movie theaters, and gyms will be able to open and operate on June 19th. Governor Ige has also signed off on allowing gatherings of 100 people outdoors and 50 people indoors.
The Hawai‘i commercial charter operations are built to be outdoor spaces. Charter companies should be able to operate their vessels at a reasonable passenger count, not exceeding the USCG’s passenger limit, while maintaining social distancing. Charter vessels are all different sizes and layouts. Making a blanket rule of a maximum of ten passengers, including crew, for all commercial vessels makes no sense. A six passenger vessels would be completely unaffected by this regulation, while a 49 passenger vessel has their operational capacity reduced by 80%. Many of the larger vessels cannot financially operate at these numbers. Restaurants and now bars can adjust their operations according to their situation, charter operators should be given the same opportunity to make accommodations and operate safely.
I encourage everyone to contact the heads of DLNR-DOBOR, the Governor, and Mayors to point out this discrepancy and encourage them to stand up for Hawai‘i’s commercial boating community. I’m sure this shut-down has taken a great financial toll on everyone, we don’t need unnecessary rules that will continue to bring charter companies to the edge of failure. Especially when other local businesses are allowed to operate at greater capacities. Let’s remind them that ocean charters are one of the largest industries in the state and employ thousands of people and bring in huge amounts of revenue to the state. DLNR-DOBOR is funded through harbor fees, they work for you. They need to hear from you that the current allowances for passengers are bias and unreasonable.
I hope everyone has stayed healthy and secure.
Justin P. Smith
Pacific Boats & Yachts