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Leadership – May 7, 2020

Virtual Interview on COVID-19: George Pasha, President and CEO, Pasha Hawaii

What has been your company’s latest pivot or innovation?

Since a statewide shelter-in-place order was issued for California in mid-March, and Hawai‘i shortly thereafter, our office workforce has gone virtual, equipped with the resources needed to work remotely at full capacity. Meanwhile, many of our front-line employees continue to don PPE and practice social distancing onsite at the terminals and at sea.

Our teams have demonstrated incredible resiliency in coming together in new ways to ensure the continuity of our cargo shipping and transportation operations between California and Hawai‘i without interruption.

We quickly deployed our reserve ship, temporarily running all six ships between California and Hawai‘i, with multiple arrivals each week, to meet increased customer demand as consumers emptied shelves at pharmacies, grocery and big box retail stores that supply essential goods. It required tremendous grit and dedication as our employees worked 24/7 to ensure the supply chain to Hawai‘i remained intact and all customer requests were fulfilled, even at unprecedented levels. Like many essential businesses, we operated in uncharted territory, facing a global pandemic that many of us have never experienced in our lifetime.

What has been your company’s latest opportunity or opportunities? 

We’ve looked at the recent activity around COVID-19 pandemic as more of a “call to serve” than an opportunity. In the early weeks starting in mid-March, cargo space on our ships was primarily dedicated to essential items like food and beverages, medications and household consumer products. Residents have adapted to Hawai‘i’s stay at home, work from home restrictions, and moving into April we witnessed the shopping habits have returned to a more stable “shop for what you need,” rather than the runs on consumables we saw in March.

In the hospitality sector of the Hawai‘i economy, we’ve seen significant drop in shipments to customers that provide support to hotels, food service, restaurant and specialty retail. With the 14-day quarantine travel restriction limiting visitors, and the uncertainty of when the tourism will return, consumer confidence has also impacted big ticket purchases like furniture and large electronics. We have seen temporary suspensions in vehicle shipments, while car dealerships and rental car agencies have halted the shipment of cars.

Like many companies affected by COVID-19, we needed to re-think and re-shape our business operations to address the significantly decreased volumes and revenues, to ensure our scheduled shipments to Hawai‘i are not impacted now and in the future. Our sister company, Hawaii Stevedores Inc., will postpone most capital improvement projects and spending to future years, with exception of our commitment in support of Hawai‘i Harbors/DOT development of Kapalama Container Terminal, the State of Hawai‘i’s single largest marine infrastructure improvement project.

How has your company’s experience been with any level of government during this crisis?

We have a strong partnership with Hawai‘i Department of Transportation’s Harbors Division, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard, and will continue to work closely with them throughout this crisis. We’ve relied on their guidance in past emergencies such as hurricanes and tropical storms and will continue to do so.

In what ways do you think your business will be different at the end of this year?

We will continue to look for ways to maintain the integrity of our business model, while ensuring Hawai‘i’s supply chain remains uninterrupted. No one knows how long it will take for Hawai‘i to return to “normal,” but for us and any business to survive, we need to keep thinking outside of the box and remain nimble as each day brings new challenges and opportunities.

In what ways have you been able to support the broader community beyond your employees and customers?

In March, we re-examined our 2020 community giving plan and budget. We identified non-profits that were scheduled to receive funds later in the year for annual fundraisers, but would likely need immediate funds to keep their operations intact. We contacted these organizations to assess their immediate needs and sent donations as needed. We re-allocated our existing 2020 budgetary funds and partnered with Hawaii Stevedores to make an unbudgeted $120,000 donation in cash and in-kind shipping services to Hawaiʻi Community Foundation’s Hawaiʻi Resilience Fund and Hawaii Foodbank. We will continue to monitor the needs of our community and will provide support wherever possible to help Hawaiʻi recover from this COVID-19 crisis.

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