For thos of you unfamiliar with the Big Island, Kawaiahae Harbor is the main shipping point for the West Side of the Big Island. There is a lot of focus in developing this harbor for more recreational use and also because of upcoming plans for a Ferry System in the islands and Kawaiahae Harbor will be a Big Island location. The ferry system will greatly improve inter-island mobility - an option other than flying :-)
Here is the article regarding security training as run in today's local paper:
West Hawaii Today - June 11, 2006 - Harbors will continue free security classes despite state's objection
Kawaihae and Hilo harbors will continue to hold free Marine Security Clearance training and certification to allow for use of the commercial and recreational harbors, despite instruction from the state to cease.
The state Department of Transportation Harbors Division asked Kawaihae and Hilo to stop holding the free training on-site due to inadequate staffing and resources to meet the demand, according to Kawaihae Marine Cargo Coordinator Eldon Suganuma.
The Kawaihae harbor has been without several key positions for years due to retirements and unexpected vacancies, including two field security officers, a harbor law enforcement officer, an administrative staffer and a maintenance person.
That leaves Suganuma to fill all those roles as the only state employee left working at the commercial harbor.
"I can see where the state is coming from. These training classes and compiling the database take up 75 percent of my job," Suganuma said. "And this isn't even part of my job."
Since the state decided to stop the free training at all harbors, anyone looking to obtain a Marine Security (MARSEC) card to gain passage at all state harbors, a federal Department of Homeland Security requirement since 2004, must travel to Honolulu where outside consultants provide the training for a fee.
Kawaihae and Hilo are the only harbors in the state still offering any free on-site certification. But the lack of staffing has forced Suganuma to reduce available courses from seven days a week to just two, held on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The training sessions run approximately 90 minutes and include watching a Homeland Security video on harbor safety. Anyone older than 16 must have a card to enter state harbors and the card has no expiration date. Since beginning the certification in 2004, Kawaihae has issued more than 5,700 MARSEC cards, Suganuma said.
All of this comes as a direct result of 9/11," Suganuma said. "That changed all the procedures that we are accustomed to, including harbor use."
But with Kawaihae being the only commercial harbor in the state that also has a recreational facility at the harbor, the inability to obtain the card on-site could be particularly burdensome for area residents, state Rep. Cindy Evans said.
"People are going to have to spend a lot of money and time to travel from here all the way to Honolulu just so they can use the recreational harbor," Evans said. "If they stop holding this here, that's going to be the only option left."
But at least for now, that won't happen, Suganuma said. DOT Harbors Division Hawaii District Manager Ian Bernie has given Hilo and Kawaihae permission to continue distributing the cards and conducting training for free as long as the cards are available, Suganuma said.
After Sunday's training for about 25 people, Suganuma said he has just three cards left, although Hilo has promised to send more to Kawaihae to help keep training going.
"The division manager understands the community's needs," Suganuma said. "He feels that as long as we have citizens that want to use the harbor and as long as we have cards to give, we're going to do it."