The existing Honolulu Harbor Federal project was constructed prior to 1981. Since completion, the world fleet has changed to include longer deeper drafting vessels with larger beams than were considered during prior studies. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Honolulu District (POH) will conduct a feasibility study to evaluate the advisability of modifications to the Honolulu Harbor to accommodate the current and future vessel fleet. The non-Federal sponsor for the study is the State of Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT). The feasibility study was initiated with the execution of a Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement (FCSA) between USACE and HDOT on 23 September 2022. Under the FCSA, study costs are split 50 percent federal and 50 percent non-federal. Major outputs of the feasibility study will be a final integrated feasibility report (FIFR) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document.
Honolulu Harbor, Hawaii, is located on the southern coast of the island of Oahu and is the State’s principal commercial port. The harbor consists of an entrance channel (Fort Armstrong Entrance Channel), that has a length of 4,000 feet, width of 500 feet, and depth of -45 feet mean lower low water (MLLW); a Main Basin that has a length of 3,300 feet, a width of 1,520 feet, and a depth of -40 feet MLLW; a Kapalama Basin that is 3,400 feet in length, 1,000 feet in width, and -40 feet MLLW in depth; a connecting channel (Kapalama Channel) that is 400 feet in width, 3,400 feet in length, and -40 feet MLLW in depth. The Federal project also includes a secondary channel, the Kalihi Channel, which is 10,300 feet in length, 400 feet in width, and maintained at a depth of -23 feet MLLW.
Under future conditions, it is anticipated that the Honolulu Harbor will face continued growth in commodities and as a result, increased vessel traffic and harbor congestion. Honolulu Harbor sits at the center of a hub-and-spoke cargo transit system that includes the State of Hawaii and U.S. territories in the Pacific due to both its location between markets in Asia, North America, South America, and Oceania, and legal requirements for the import of goods into the United States and its territories. Under the Jones Act of 1920, all goods shipped between US ports must be transported by US vessels. Most of the goods and services that are shipped to and from the Neighbor Islands (Hawaiian Islands other than Oahu) go through Honolulu Harbor before reaching their final destination. Further, the harbor’s single point of entry and exit for vessels creates time delays, inefficiencies, and a single point of failure if there is an incident within the channel. While port infrastructure is expanding to accommodate changes in maritime supply change demands, there are currently inefficient operations and limited maneuverability in the harbor. Inefficiencies are exacerbated by ongoing and projected changes in vessel dimensions.