American Safari Cruises has announced it will not visit Molokai next week as scheduled.
An email received yesterday from Dan Blanchard, principal and CEO of ASC, said, “In respect for the continuing discussions, the Safari Explorer yacht will not visit Molokai as planned on its next voyage, Dec. 16 and 17.
“We are committed to our vendors and supporters on Molokai,” Blanchard continued. “We look forward to reaching a mutually agreeable resolution and our peaceful return to Molokai soon.”
Blanchard mentioned that he is working with people on all levels to gain local support so the Safari Explorer cruise boat can dock at Kaunakakai Harbor. “We are continuing to work with state, federal and local representatives in Hawaii on concerns brought forth in the last community meeting on Molokai.”
When the 145-foot, 36-passenger luxury cruise yacht last came to Molokai on Nov. 26, it was met with a blockade of small vessels and surfboards. The boat detoured to Lanai but returned to Molokai the following day, creating further anger from local protesters.
The sign-waving protests began on the Safari Explorer’s first visit on Oct. 30. They continued on Nov. 10 when the boat made its second visit.
Protesters believe the cruise yacht did not go through the proper local channels, or protocol, expected of a visiting cruise boat. Other locals expressed concerns, as well as support, at a recent community meeting of more than 300 people on Nov. 30. Those opposed worried how this cruise might change the local feel of Molokai and if this would open the door for future cruise boats. Protesters demanded more local control so that the island can better regulate the quality and quantity of its visitors.
Supporters of the cruise boat also spoke at the meeting to raise important questions. Can Molokai afford to overlook a low-impact economic boost? Can this cruise yacht create a few jobs that might help reduce the high Molokai’s high unemployment rate, the highest of any Hawaiian island?
As a result of the meeting, Blanchard agreed to postpone the visit planned for Dec. 2 and 3. A total of 22 local businesses are working with ASC to provide completely local services for the two-day visits.