Hawaii proposes boating rule changes


HONOLULU — State regulators are proposing changes in rules for commercial use of Hawaii’s waters but some businesses that offer surfing lessons and boat rentals say the industry would be better off with self-regulation.

There’s been a significant increase in commercial activity since boating rules were last revised 20 years ago, said William Aila, director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

“It’s time to update our rules so they are fair and equally applied to commercial operators operating everywhere in state waters,” he said.

The state wants to define insurance requirements, raise fees to register rental surfboard and standardize fees.

The department’s Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation started the process for the department last week with a series of public hearings that have already drawn criticism from commercial ocean users, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

The state requires catamaran and canoe captains, surf instructors, sailboard instructors and commercial motorboat operators in Waikiki and Kaanapali to pass a written and surfing test but is behind in testing.

“We don’t have the staff to keep up in Waikiki, and the program has never been implemented in Kaanapali,” said Ed Underwood, division administrator. “It isn’t required anywhere else, and frankly we don’t think we are qualified to make these kinds of assessments, so we are pushing to end the operator licensing program.”

Bob Hampton, board chairman of Waikiki Beach Activities Ltd. said employers are better qualified to screen employees.

Louie Ferreira, a permitted surfing instructor for Hawaiian Oceans, said the rule changes appear to focus on easing workloads for state employees. “They should be more concerned about safety,” he said. “This is all about the money.”

Additional costs could hurt large and small commercial operators, said George Lindsey, an attorney who represents the owners of the Mana Kai, Manu Kai and Nohoku II catamarans.

“When you don’t get anything back for your fee, I would argue that it’s really a tax,” he said. “My clients already are paying enough of those.”