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DLNR and Coast Guard issue statement to clarify marine event management policy


HONOLULU – The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Sector Honolulu today released a joint statement to clarify their mutual position regarding marine events, including races, in navigable boat channels in state waters. The overall goal of this policy is to protect the safety of ocean users.

DLNR and the Coast Guard recently met with representatives of O‘ahu canoe clubs who had expressed concern that marine event permits no longer allowed races in active navigable boat channels. On O‘ahu, three channels have been locations for racing events: Ala Wai small boat harbor, Ke‘ehi small boat harbor, and Maunalua Bay. The groups asked under what conditions could racing in specific waterways continue to be allowed.

Marine events attract crowds of spectators, and because of their desire to see the competition and the participants up close, race courses have in the past been staged close to shore and in areas of elevated vessel traffic, including boat channels.

However, due to the mix of different uses in these channels, volume of boat traffic, and restricted maneuverability, adding races creates a potentially dangerous situation and dramatically increases the potential for loss of life and property. DLNR and the Coast Guard have determined that they cannot be used safely as a race venue without proper marine event permits and safety controls.

“We want to clarify that racing will be able to continue in channels with low traffic. However in areas of high traffic, we will work with the constituencies to ensure that any vessel racing is done in a manner that protects both life and property and the safety of ocean users in these areas,” said Laura H. Thielen, DLNR chairperson.

“The feedback received during our recent meeting with local paddlers helped us to reach a compromise that implements the proper safeguards to protect all waterway users, while still facilitating race events that can be enjoyed by the maritime community,” said Captain Barry A. Compagnoni, Sector Honolulu Commander.

The conditions that will apply in future to marine events include:

  • DLNR and the USCG will not completely ban racing in the three specified boat channels but have placed very strict guidelines and requirements for their use as racing venues. Both DLNR and the USCG would allow racing in boat channels if all safety requirements are met.
  • To conduct an organized race in Ala Wai, Keehi and Maunalua Bay channels, DLNR’s Marine Unit of the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) would need to be contracted to continuously monitor and direct vessel traffic during racing. The fee for DOCARE’s Marine Unit is $1500 for four hours. There is a four hour minimum.
  • Safety requirements for all marine events conducted in State waters are detailed in Marine Event Permits issued by DLNR with the concurrence of the USCG. Marine event permits are required for all marine events involving groups of participants and watercraft.
  • Each request for a Marine Event Permit has been, and always will be, reviewed on a case-by-case basis and safety requirements will be stipulated according to the type of event, number of participants and number/types of vessels.

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