Matson Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Pay $1 Million For Honolulu Harbor Molasses Spill

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October 22, 2014

U.S. Coast Guard photo of the Molasses spill.

A division of the Jones Act shipping company Matson has agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges and pay $1 million in connection to last year’s molasses spill in Honolulu Harbor.

Matson Transportation, Inc. and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Hawaii reached a plea agreement Tuesday in which Matson agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor violations of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 and also pay $1 million – a $400,000 fine and a $600,000 community service payment, according to Pacific Business News. Of the community service payment, $300,000 will be paid to the Waikiki Aquarium and another $300,000 to Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, the report says.

The charges stem from a September 2013 incident where over 230,000 gallons of molasses spilled into Honolulu Harbor from a Matson pipeline at the Sand Island terminal used to load ships with the substance and ship it to the West Coast for processing. The sticky brown substance killed thousands of fish and damaged reefs in the harbor and a nearby lagoon.

Following the spill, Matson vowed to cover all costs associated with the exhaustive cleanup effort and offered their full cooperation to the authorities in their investigation. Matson also said it would cease molasses operations immediately at the terminal. According to a report from, the molasses at Sand Island operations remain suspended.

The plea agreement still needs to be approved by a judge.

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