Drop in Cargo Volumes Suggests Cautious Local Businesses

May 23, 2013, 3:46 PM HST · Updated May 23, 4:21 PM
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Young Brothers, Kahului Office. Courtesy photo.

Young Brothers, Kahului Office. Courtesy photo.

By Sonia Isotov

A 3.9% drop in intrastate cargo shipments between Honolulu and the six neighbor island ports in the first quarter of 2013 indicates that local businesses are “still being cautious,” according an announcement by Young Brothers, Inc. on the release of their Quarterly Shipping Report today.

“It’s disappointing to start the year with a decline,” said Glenn Hong, president of Young Brothers, in a written statement. “Nevertheless, it’s a continuation of the volatility we’ve experienced in quarterly comparisons of intrastate cargo volumes over the last few years.  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.”

According to the company spokesperson, Young Brothers’ Quarterly Report is a key barometer of neighbor island economic activity. The report showed a 2% increase in the fourth quarter 2012 and an overall flat comparison (up just 0.4%) in 2012.

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During the first quarter of 2013, the ports on Maui and the Big Island – which have the greatest intrastate cargo volumes – experienced declines: Kahului, Maui, the largest neighbor island port in terms of cargo, down 5.8%; Hilo, dropped 6%; and Kawaihae, down 12.3%.

The report noted that three neighbor island ports exhibited increases in cargo volume for the quarter including Nawiliwili, Kauai, which climbed 3.1%. Kaunakakai, Molokai, and Kaumalapau, Lanai – the two smallest ports in terms of cargo volume within the Young Brothers system – were up 2.2% and 28.5%, respectively.

From an industry-category perspective, the announcement mentioned that construction-industry cargo was relatively strong. However, cargo volumes dropped in some isolated categories with much of the overall decline in the quarter due to less cargo volume from local recycling companies and the federal government (which includes the US Postal Service).

“These results underscore the mixed signals that we are continuing to see with regard to neighbor island economies,” said Hong.  “Importantly, construction activity is picking up. However, other major categories are still somewhat flat, with a small number of different segments showing weakness from quarter to quarter.”

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