HONOLULU, Hawaii -- Large generators automatically kicked in at Honolulu Harbor when the power failed after the big October 15 earthquakes, providing most islanders with an uninterrupted flow of goods and avoiding what could have been substantial losses of time and money to shippers.
The generators powering the large Matson Lines cranes that continued removing containers from ships were funded on a cost-sharing basis through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), starting in 1998. The generators of Young Bothers Limited, also an HMGP project, provided power as well to refrigerated containers and could have shared power to the City of Honolulu had the city requested it.
David Franco, Matson's Manager, Facilities and Maintenance, estimates that it would take days if not weeks to recover from the disruption of the flow of goods to the community if the facility shuts down.
"If the facility shuts down," said Jeffrey Low, Young Brothers' Manager of Planning and Facilities, "the entire inter-island distribution of needed goods is affected."
Matson, which provides 65 to 70 percent of the container cargo shipment, or $140 million worth of goods, into and out of Honolulu a year, was in full off-loading mode that Sunday morning. Young Brothers is the principal inter-island maritime freight company and moves about three million tons of goods per month.
"The $690,000 cost of the generators over the 20-year life of the project, we think, provides a very favorable benefit-cost analysis and effective mitigation measure considering how absolutely vital Honolulu Harbor is to the island community," said FEMA mitigation specialist Diane Earl.
The generators are so large that they are housed in cargo containers. Matson's three generators-together providing power to three container cranes and four banks of refrigerated containers-are located centrally to crane operations. The two custom-built generators at Young Brothers are used for daily business but can be pulled off line in an emergency.
A cooperative agreement exists between State Civil Defense and the companies. Maintenance of the generators is a high priority and they are tested regularly. Furthermore, there is an agreement that provides for state government deployment of the generators for response and recovery activities associated with a declared emergency.
The state of Hawaii experiences more hurricanes than earthquakes. Since 1950, five hurricanes or significant tropical storms have inflicted serious damage on Hawaii and seven others could have caused major damage. The National Weather Service predicts that future hurricanes will probably strike Hawaii as frequently as in the past.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with state and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.