The 2021 Guide to Hawaiʻi’s Shipping, Air and Transportation

Industry leaders share new challenges and what they look forward to in the future.

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Hawaiʻi’s history has shown its evolution is steeped in maritime history.

From the time of the first Polynesian voyages to Hawai‘i, to the whaling era and immigrant arrivals in the 1800s, and rising visitor industry in the 1900s, the ocean has provided the greatest opportunity for economic growth and development.

The Hawaiian Islands’ remote location demands that nearly all goods, such as fuel, cars and manufacturing products, be imported through its 10 commercial harbors. Its central Pacific location also makes it a key transportation and communications center for Pacific Rim economies. Just as voyaging canoes once crisscrossed the Pacific Ocean, large ships now take their place, carrying necessary cargo that replenishes the supply chain throughout the state.

“An annual average of 12.8 million tons of marine cargo was shipped into the state, and an annual average of 1.7 million was shipped out of state,” according to the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism’s (DBEDT) 2019 marine cargo report. It analyzed trends and patterns during the period from 2001 to 2016. “Virtually all aspects of Hawai‘i’s economy are tied to the marine cargo sector including interstate commerce, global trade and energy supply.”

The past couple years have meant adaptation and change for the industry’s many companies during the Covid-19 pandemic, but now that the economy has reopened, new challenges due to visitor surges are arising.

“It has become a common thought throughout the country that Hawai‘i has now become ‘the safest of places in the USA to travel to.’ There has been a surge in tourism, resulting in a corresponding surge in demand for products and labor. This has resulted in labor shortages and infrastructure-related problems,” says Brad Dechter, President of DHX-Dependable Hawaiian Express, an ocean freight company that serves Hawai‘i and Guam.

“Currently, ocean carriers have chassis and container equipment issues in various locations due to these increases in demand, and they are addressing them as they arise,” Dechter continues. “That being said, resolving the problem is never fast enough. The ports are doing their best to get back up to the necessary operating capacity, and we are optimistic that this is a shortlived phenomenon. We have been fortunate to be one of the few companies able to maintain our high level of service.”

Pasha Hawaii, which has offered specialized container ocean transportation between the continental US and Hawai‘i for the past 22 years, has been keeping a nimble business model and has focused on having an experienced team trained in supply chain management.

“This pandemic has reinforced our commitment to partnerships with our associates, our customers, and our communities where we live and serve. Open communication and relying on the relationships we have built over the years played key roles in our success,” says George Pasha IV, President and CEO of Pasha Hawaii. “As Hawai‘i recovers from the pandemic, tourism returns, and our economy continues to open up, we are seeing a return to normal weekly volume, with occasional peaks as the supply chain levels out.”

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Photo: courtesy of Pasha Hawaii

Turning toward the future, Hawai‘i’s shipping companies are continuing to progress by constructing new vessels, enhancing features or adding new services for customers.

“Technology is a major focus for our customers and the ability to facilitate online connectivity, load tracking and data interchange,” says Randy Tutor, Vice President of Approved Freight Forwarders, a fourth-generation family business made up of five sister companies that’s approaching its 100th anniversary. “Our Enterprise system is a worldwide freight forwarding tool that streamlines our operational capabilities for ocean and air and enhances our communication with customers. For the future, we are looking at online quoting from anywhere in the United States to and from anywhere in the world – online shipment planning and customer bookings,” he says.

“As a major consolidator we have enjoyed a close relationship with the Steamship Lines and we have supported their efforts in replacing aging fleets and upgrading their existing fleets with clean air initiatives,” continues Tutor. “Wharfage improvements and port upgrades are supported by the fees we pay on each container load. We believe this is a selfsustaining method for making sure the ports have capacity for the future.”

Construction of two new ‘Ohana Class container vessels continues for Pasha Hawaii as part of its ongoing infrastructure and vessel investment plan for Hawai‘i maritime services. The MV George III is expected to enter service later this year and the MV Janet Marie will launch soon after.

“Upon its inaugural sail from the Port of Long Beach, George III will be the first natural gas-powered containership to call on the West Coast and the first to service Hawai‘i, with both ships operating fully on natural gas from day one in service,” says Pasha. “Both George III and Janet Marie will surpass the International Maritime Organization’s 2030 standards for ocean vessels with close to zero sulfur emissions, a 99.9% reduction in particulate matter, a 90% reduction in nitrogen oxide, and 25% reduced carbon dioxide as compared to liquid oil fuels.”

Approved Freight Forwarders

With 30 years of experience, Approved has become the freight forwarder and consolidator of choice for businesses operating in the Hawaiian Islands. As a top 3PL provider, we accommodate all types of freight with particular expertise in retail, food & beverage, construction, hospitality, energy, and automotive supplies.

Consistent and Flexible Direct Sailing Schedules: Approved sails two times per week from Los Angeles to Honolulu. Direct service includes Hilo, Kona, Kahului, and Nāwiliwili saving critical days off transit time. With owned assets and local teams on all four major islands, we are uniquely positioned to offer local deliveries plus best-in-class service and rates to its customers.

Los Angeles: Your Link to the Pacific: By leveraging relationships with both international and Mainland carriers, Approved coordinates pickup and transport for all types of goods and commodities to their Los Angeles warehouse. From there, we can arrange full-container and less-than-container load shipments. We offer both mainland and interisland consolidations through our sister company Royal Hawaiian Movers.

Additional Services: Approved also offers on-island warehousing, eastbound service and is a certified air carrier. We provide FF&E, project management and logistics support for retail, hotel, medical equipment, office and industrial customers.

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Photo: courtesy of Approved Freight Forwarders

Cutting-Edge Tracking Technology: Approved leverages FreightSnap® technology to automatically scan, weigh and track true dimensions. Shipments are photographed from every angle for complete transparency and monitoring. Clients can access photos and track their cargo every step of the way through the online portal.

Learn more at:

At the start of 2021, DHXDependable Hawaiian Express acquired Hawaiian Express Service, an 85-year company and fellow Hawaiian forwarder.

“This allowed us to move into new service offerings that Hawaiian Express Service was considered an expert in by their customers,” says Dechter. “In addition to servicing Alaska, we now offer frozen and chill services from the West Coast and have added to our expertise in handling out-of-gauge shipments, as well as cross-dock and warehousing services for hotel renovations and more. DHX-Dependable Hawaiian Express, Inc. O‘ahu has also purchased specialized equipment to facilitate delivery of RORO (Roll-On/Roll-Off) related items.”

Accepting new challenges and figuring out solutions is a steady goal when considering the future of shipping, especially in pandemic times.

“Plan for the best, but prepare for the worst,” says Dechter. “We have seen incredible labor challenges this past year and a half. We anticipate that now and do our best. We are also expanding our capacity, which means more supervisors, more drivers, and more equipment to ensure we continue to provide our valuable customers with the service level they have grown to know and appreciate,” he continues. “We are an asset-based, customer-oriented, forward-thinking ocean and air freight company that believes in taking care of our customers and controlling our destiny by the communities we serve.”

Pasha adds, “Regardless of the challenges we face, it’s the aloha spirit we have for one another that drives improvement for our team, partners, and customers. There’s a strong sense of ‘ohana and a personal investment in keeping shelves stocked and taking care of each other’s needs.”

DHX Dependable Hawaiian Express

It’s estimated Hawai‘i’s economy imports at least 80% of its goods from mainland sources. At the height of COVID-19, some less fortunate businesses closed. DHX-Dependable Hawaiian Express was able to continue and thrive in its role as the State of Hawai‘i’s largest essential freight forwarder into the Islands.

With warehousing and distribution on O‘ahu, Maui, and Kona (as well as Guam), DHX-Dependable Hawaiian Express is uniquely positioned to receive and store an influx of goods for customers who cannot receive products. We also help meet critical logistical demands for our customers’ raw materials and related products and the merchandise/ goods they require.

When time is of the essence, your more time-sensitive commodities can be airfreighted and expedited by our sister company DGX-Dependable Global Express. Even during these trying times, and considering our acquisition and assimilation of Hawaiian Express Services Inc. into our ‘ohana, building supplies continue their flow through our services, keeping construction project supply chains operating smoothly.

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DHX-Dependable Hawaiian Express, Inc. offers delivery on all of the Hawaiian Islands and Guam. | Photo: courtesy of DHX

As an essential business, our top priority remains service, safety, and the health of our ‘ohana of employees, customers, and community. For many, remote home workstations have been established. Strict adherence to the customer shipping and receiving protocols and safety measures were implemented for our frontline operations employees. Serving the Islands for 40 years, we’re proud of our efforts to keep our ‘ohana healthy and safe.

We are extremely proud of giving back to our communities by transporting much-needed supplies to various community organizations and volunteering at food banks during this time of need. We remain proud and prepared more than ever to serve and provide for our community.

For more information, visit, contact your local office or call toll-free at 1-800-488-4888.



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