Young Brothers’ cargo volume between Honolulu and six neighbor island ports dropped nearly 4 percent during the first quarter of this year, a report issued Thursday said.
Agricultural product shipping increased slightly, the report said, about 1.2 percent. But ag cargo volume dropped at Kawaihae by 31 percent.
The interisland shipping company releases quarterly reports providing a snapshot of the islands’ economy. The company posted cargo volume gains through 2012, and President Glenn Hong said he was disappointed to see the 3.9 percent decrease when comparing the first three months of this year with the same period last year.
“Nevertheless, it’s a continuation of the volatility we’ve experienced in quarterly comparisons of intrastate cargo volumes over the last few years,” Hong said. “The trend has been sideways – a slight up quarter, followed by a dip. We believe that some local businesses, particularly those on the neighbor islands, are still being very cautious.”
Vice President, Strategic Planning and Government Relations Roy Catalani said it is difficult to say exactly what percentage of the interisland shipping market Young Brothers has compared with larger carriers, such as Matson. But Young Brothers is the largest carrier operating solely between the Hawaiian Islands, and even picks up some Matson cargo on occasion, Catalani said.
Construction and food commodity shipments were up slightly this quarter, he said, but Young Brothers noticed fewer shipments from the U.S. Post Office and fewer recyclable materials being moved to be recycled within the state.
Overall volume to Kawaihae Harbor dropped 12.3 percent from the first quarter of last year to this year, with a 24.4 percent drop in outbound cargo and a 6.9 percent drop in inbound cargo. Hilo Harbor saw a 6 percent overall decrease, with a 10.8 percent drop in outbound cargo and a 3.9 percent decline in inbound cargo.
Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauai, Kaunakakai on Molokai and Kaumalapau on Lanai all posted overall cargo shipment gains, Young Brothers officials said.
Catalani attributed the sharp decrease in ag shipments from Kawaihae to fewer cattle shipments. He also noted that with the relatively low ag volume going through the port — 180 container/platform equivalents in the 2013 first quarter, compared with 783 container/platform equivalents leaving Hilo during the same time frame — even a small decrease can result in a fairly large percentage drop.
Cargo volume in Hilo was up 6.3 percent, but Hawaii Island overall dropped 3.4 percent.
The relatively flat ag cargo volume numbers come after a particularly strong quarter, Young Brothers officials said. The fourth quarter of 2012 showed a 13.7 percent increase in cargo volume compared with the final quarter of 2011. And 2012 posted an overall 11.6 percent increase compared with 2011. Ag cargo volume was up 21.1 percent at Kahului, Maui.
Tricia Hodsen, of WOW Farms in Waimea, said Thursday she could see another contributing factor for the declining ag product shipments.
“Our winter lasted all the way until two, three weeks ago,” Hodsen said. “We had cold, cold weather.”
That affected tomato production, and Hodsen speculated the growing problems could have spread to other farms as well. WOW Farms didn’t set up at at least one farmers market from December until late April, because the family was growing just enough tomatoes to send to their resort restaurant clients.