Molokai blocks Kaunakakai Harbor

SOURCE: Brad Parsons (
SUBHEAD: American Safari Explorer tour boat turns around after stalemate with protestors blocking harbor.  

By Staff on November 26 2011 for -  
Image above: Still frame from KITV video of Molokai tour boat blockade. From original article.

Protestors on Molokai successfully blocked a tour ship from entering Kaunakakai Harbor Saturday morning. At the crack of dawn, more than a dozen protestors took to the water using surfboards and small vessels to physically block the path of the American Safari Explorer. They say they were exluded from the decision-making process and don't want their island to turn into another Waikiki.

"So this was like the beginning of the cruise industry coming to Molokai," said Walter Ritte, a 50-year resident of Molokai and protestor. "So we tried to ask them to go through a process so we could be involved, but they refused. So we had no choice but to do a protest."

The stalemate was broken when the 36-passenger boat turned around to continue its tour around Lanai and skip its visit to Molokai. This would have been the boat's third arrival to Molokai.

Two prior arrivals that began in October were met by protesters on land, which organizers say had no effect. So they took to the water, saying they got the idea from the blockade of the Superferry on Kauai in August 2007. "We felt that the people on Kauai did a pretty good job with the Superferry so maybe we try it, going into the water, stopping them from actually docking and it worked really well today," Ritte said.

But Dan Blanchard, the owner of American Safari Cruises which operates the cruises around Maui, the Big Island and Lanai, says the boat will simply continue on without the stops and services from Molokai, leaving Molokai's small businesses at a loss.

"It's those vendors that really get hurt," said Blanchard. "Unfortunately that's where it lies, so it isn't as great to the small businesses of Molokai."

He added that his company took the proper channels to coordinate arrivals, meeting with community members and even attending one of the prior protests. "They (the protestors) feel that they weren't brought into the loop. We had one community meeting already in addition to all the one-on-one meetings we had over the years,"said Blanchard. "It appears to us that the large majority of the island is in favor of this."

A community meeting is planned for Wednesday. Blanchard hopes to sit down with protesters to discuss their concerns. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday November 30th at 6 p.m. at Mitchell Pauole Hall. The boat for now is scheduled to arrive on Dec. 2nd and 3rd, an arrival protestors say will be met with a similar response.


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