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Since the early Polynesian voyagers landed in Hawaii around 750 A.D., its tropical beauty and tranquil seclusion has lured many visitors to its shores.

The isolated chain of islands sits in the North Pacific Ocean, about 2,500 miles from the nearest port on the coast of California, which makes the task of transporting goods to the islands a complex, costly, and timely process for companies operating there.

How is Freight Delivered?

ArcBest and Matson are two companies offering freight delivery services to the islands, operating from various ports in Seattle, Washington all the way down to Long Beach, California. Traveling by air or by barge to one of the many ports in Hawaii, these shipments are most often landing in Oahu.

Goods begin their journey just like any other shipment, from its origin within the contiguous U.S., but they are then moved to a coastal port processing and consolidation facility. Cargo is then inspected, sorted, and loaded into ocean containers which are often subject to inspection prior to travel.

Despite their long journey to the island, Hawaiian freight is still a domestic shipment, requiring no extra paperwork. However, there are a few things to keep in mind, such as a bill of lading or hazardous materials paperwork. Shipping schedules and transit times also vary from carrier to carrier, so a strategic focus on timing is crucial.

Honolulu Harbor was created through the restriction of coral growth by the fresh water pouring in from Nu’uanu Stream. The first docking structure at the harbor was created by floating a sunken ship’s hull into place, and was used for eight years.

Since the primary port resides in Honolulu, Oahu, shipments making their way to the outer islands will then need to be transloaded via inter-island barge for their final destination. The fees that come with ocean delivery are also based on cubic feet, a departure from the typical weight class of mainland shipping.

Honolulu harbor is one of the largest container handling ports in the United States, processing over 8 million short tons of cargo annually. Apart from serving the mainland U.S. and other Hawaiian Islands, Honolulu Harbor is also a major shipping link between Asia and the entire Pacific Rim. Honolulu international airport is about 3 miles West of the Honolulu Harbor’s Sand Island container facilities, enabling shipments from all over the globe to pass through its waters.

In total, there are 10 commercial harbors on six major Hawaiian Islands – O’ahu, Maui, Moloka’I, Lána’i, the “Big Island” of Hawai’i, and Kaua’i.

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