Hawaii’s Final Sugar Cargo Departs Maui Aboard ‘Maku Pahu’

Mako Pahu file photo. Credit: ShipSpotting.com
Mako Pahu file photo. Credit: ShipSpotting.com

The sugar transport ship Moku Pahu departed Kahului harbor in Maui last Friday carrying the final cargo of sugar produced by the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company, marking the end of an era for sugar production in the Hawaiian Islands.

The Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S) was founded in 1870 and grew to become Hawaii’s largest sugarcane grower with its 36,000 acre plantation on Maui. In January HC&S parent company Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. announced it was transitioning out of the sugar business to pursue a more diversified agricultural model for its Maui plantation after the company reported an operating loss of $15 million in its agribusiness in 2015. Final sugar operations were scheduled to be phased out by the end of 2016.

“A&B’s roots literally began with the planting of sugar cane on 570 acres in Makawao, Maui, 145 years ago,” said Stanley M. Kuriyama, A&B executive chairman, back in January when it announced the changes. “Much of the state’s population would not be in Hawaii today, myself included, if our grandparents or great-grandparents had not had the opportunity to work on the sugar plantations. A&B has demonstrated incredible support for HC&S over these many years, keeping our operation running for 16 years after the last sugar company on Maui closed its doors. We have made every effort to avoid having to take this action.”

To transport sugar from Maui, HC&S has used the 33-year-old Moku Pahu, an integrated tug and barge to transport bulk and raw sugar and molasses from Kahului Harbor to the California & Hawaiian Sugar Company (C&H) refinery on the San Francisco Bay in California. 

An interesting letter from the Maku Pahu’s captain was published today by Mauinow.com:

Everyone,

I wanted to take this time to express just how deeply touched I was at the sendoff you all gave us this morning. I have been sailing now for 26 years and over 20 of it has been proudly served on board this Mighty Moku Pahu as a part of the proud Hawaiian sugar trade. My heart swelled with pride and joy, and I am not too proud to admit that my eyes grew watery as we backed away from the berth and the entire harbor came to a stop to line up and salute the Pahu as she made here final departure out of the harbor. I have heard of a 21 gun salute but that was the first time I ever experienced a 21 horn and whistle salute. To see everyone on the dock and anywhere in the harbor just standing and seeing us off with all the drivers lined up in their vehicles blaring their horns along with the Matson tug, it was a great moment for an aging ship and her aging captain. Even the paddle boarders were all lined up just watching us depart this morning. My crew was honored and we all know this will be an event in our lives that we will never forget.

Personally, I have been honored to be able to be a part of the 145 year era that was Hawaiian sugar. The bulk of my career has been working on the last Hawaiian sugar ship and the last 13.5 years I have been the proud captain of the last Hawaiian sugar ship. No matter where my career takes me, I will always consider myself a sugar captain. You always made me feel like I was a part of the sugar family and the Kahului harbor family. The friendships that developed over the years will never be forgotten, and I will cherish the time I had working with you all. The ending of Hawaiian sugar is sad, but the saddest part for me will be not working with all of you anymore.

When I find myself back on Maui (I will have to come back because it is like a second home to me) I will look you all up so that we can break bread, enjoy a nice beverage, and tell story about the old sugar days.

I can never thank you enough for the honor I felt with the great sendoff you gave us.

Mahalo to you all, and everyone stay healthy and safe

Until we see each other again,

Aloha

Capt. Lou

And Rob