DoBOR policies encouraging the spread of Covid-19 in our community

DoBOR harbor management disappeared with the arrival of the pandemic - word's out and illegal activity in harbors spike

DoBOR evicting primary-residence temp permittees, despite lockdown orders, forcing violations of the governor's 6th Supplementary Proclamation

(Correction in this article: our comment "Despite the suspension of Hawaii Administrative Rules . . ." was not accurate.   Many of the State's Hawaii Revised Statutes and Hawaii Administrative Rules have been modified -- not suspended -- as a result of the governor's Sixth Supplementary Proclamation.  Of particular note, for the purposes of this article, is that public harbor-related Hawaii Administrative Rules have been modified as noted below.)


Word's out, there's no one watching our public harbors.  DoBOR's harbor offices are closed but inside they are running on a bare minimal skeleton crew whose main purpose is to tend to office paperwork.  In the confusion, some of DoBOR's administrative policies have turned toxic,  violating the governor's latest emergency proclamation.  Through their absence and lack of coordination with the governor's pandemic proclamation orders, DoBOR, a State of Hawaii division, actually appears to be encouraging the spread of Covid-19 in our community.

DoBOR is now telling temp permittees to leave the harbor in the middle of a pandemic lockdown.  There's nowhere to go and most temp permittees are from either another island or from overseas. Their vessels are their primary residence.  The vessels in question had arrived in the harbor system before the pandemic, and now find themselves locked down in the harbor system at the end of their temp lease period and right in the middle of a coronavirus epidemic.  Despite the emergency modifications to Hawaii Administrative Rules, DoBOR's reaction has been to kick these boaters out of the harbor, even as everyone is being asked to not move around and to stay at home.  It's almost as if DoBOR was never told that there is a global pandemic on and that movement around Hawaii is severely restricted.  Some of these temp permittees -- we spoke to two -- will need to take on crews in order to safely move their vessels. And even though skippers are telling DoBOR this, its harbor agents seem not to understand that this would be a violation of the Supplementary Proclamation.  Taking on crews who are not family members (not unusual for temps) is a blatant violation of the governor's orders, and something that encourages the spread of the virus.

So, when the cat is gone the mice will play.  The word's out.  Drug dealing and drug use in some parts of the harbor system has spiked.  Illegal liveabords in the harbor are now commonplace, as are illegally moored vessels (with illegal liveaboards and illegal drug use).  The AirB&B business is now flourishing and some boaters are making a killing by sub-leasing out their boats to others -- illegally.  Social distancing in this environment is a myth.

When DoBOR was asked by our whistleblower about why they weren't identifying boats involved in illegal activity in the harbor, DoBOR chose not to answer.  Nor did DoBOR respond when it was asked why they weren't sending out letters of warning to boaters suspected of illegal activity, and they refused again to respond when asked why they hadn't cited any of the boaters involved in illegal activity, social distancing violations, illegal crew numbers, illegal gatherings, etc.

Guilt by silence, I guess.  Problem is, an overworked and undermanned Honolulu Police Department has to pick up DoBOR's slack.

If a State of Hawaii division, like DoBOR, cannot adhere to the governor's emergency orders, why should anyone else feel compelled to comply?

Not to end on a negative note, can we offer these suggestions:

Allow all legitimate primary-residence permittees, temporary and permanent, to remain in the public harbor system, without penalty and regardless of the current status of a permit, until such time as harbor administrative activity has re-normalized and then resumed – and not before then. This will require DoBOR to immediately refund penalties and additional fees that have already been levied against all legitimate temporary mooring permit holders, and refrain from charging other than normal fees until further direction from the governor's office.

DoBOR communication: keep harbor tenants apprised of what's going on.  Let tenants know, regularly, by personal email (already on hand at the DoBOR administrative office) about changes in policy, rules, and what they can expect in the near future in our State harbors. This communication dynamic MUST allow for two-way exchanges between harbor tenants and DoBOR personnel.

DoBOR, please allow a roving harbor agent to lend a hand with the policing of social distancing rules so that all of the enforcement responsibility doesn't fall on the shoulders of our Honolulu Police Department.



Residents in Hawaii should, by all means, adhere to the most current version of the social distancing guidelines.  It is quite possible that someone close by, asymptomatic, is a carrier.  And while you may not show symptoms right away, you could become a carrier of this extreme contagion and subsequently cause the death of a loved one somewhere in our community.


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