PUC To Investigate Cargo Company's Virus Fund Request

Jun 3, 2020

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission plans to conduct an emergency investigation into the financial condition of an ocean shipping company seeking $25 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to remain in business.

The commission said it will investigate Young Brothers LLC's “financial condition, contingency plans, and access to financing,” West Hawaii Today reported Tuesday.

The emergency investigation was prompted by state Consumer Advocacy Executive Director Dean Nishina, who said the pandemic has likely disrupted the effectiveness of previous projections for the company’s expenses and cargo volumes.

Young Brothers President Jay Ana said the company, which employs 370 people statewide, needs the $25 million to maintain operations through December.

Without the federal funding allocated by the state, Young Brothers would need to make cuts and maintain a schedule that reduces weekly trips between Honolulu and Hilo from two to one, Ana said.

Young Brothers has filed a contingency plan and financial information requested by Nishina.

“Developing this contingency plan for Young Brothers involved some incredibly difficult decisions,” Ana said in a statement. "Ultimately, the people of Hawaii should know that our top priority is finding real solutions to ensure uninterrupted service to all of the communities we serve."

The commission's emergency investigation order outlines the company’s May 26 request for coronavirus funds and recent financial history, including three applications for rate hikes over the past four years.

The 120-year-old Honolulu firm is Hawaii’s only regulated interisland cargo company and considered valuable to local economies, especially those of smaller islands such as Molokai and Lanai that depend on its tug-and-barge service.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.