Loss of shipping scale weighs heavy on some local businesses

As sugar operations wind down this year, an elevated scale to weigh sugar and molasses will be closed, and that will prompt some Maui businesses to look elsewhere to weigh their containers before shipping them on barges.

The scale at Kahului Trucking & Storage near the Kahului Harbor will be closed to public use after Dec. 1, KT&S General Manager Glenn Wilbourn said last week in an email.

KT&S, a subsidiary of Alexander & Baldwin, hauls sugar and molasses for Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., another subsidiary of A&B. HC&S will shut down sugar operations at the end of this year. The decision to close stemmed from the loss of millions of dollars from the sugar plantation and forecasts for more losses.

Nevertheless, KT&S will continue as a full-service trucking company, offering truck repairs and parts along with the rental and sale of cranes, forklifts and trailers.

“HC&S accounted for more than 75 percent of the daily scale tickets KT&S produced. Without sugar operations, the scale house is not economically viable,” Wilbourn said. The KT&S scale house is operated by “bulk sugar workers,” who are KT&S employees. Of those workers, three will lose their jobs, Wilbourn said. Another six KT&S truck drivers will be laid off.

KT&S employs about 70 workers. The company also has operations on Kauai and the Big Island, Wilbourn said.

He estimated that from 20 to 25 businesses use the scale multiple times each month. Per visit, the rate is $30 for an account holder or $50 if a customer pays by cash.

Wilbourn explained that customers drive their trucks or rigs onto the scale, then a worker prints a ticket with the weight of the vehicle and cargo together. The drivers already know what their vehicles weigh, so they can subtract that to determine the weight of cargo.

Wilbourn said the businesses probably have used KT&S’ scale because of its proximity to Kahului Harbor.

He has not heard much rumbling from customers about KT&S’ scale closure. One customer told him another scale had been found to weigh goods.

State Harbors Maui District Manager Duane Kim said Tuesday he also hasn’t heard any concerns about the scale closure.

There was no comment this week from businesses that use the scale.

State Transportation Department spokesman Tim Sakahara said Wednesday the state doesn’t operate scales at Hawaii’s commercial harbors. On Maui, there are other certified scales available for truckers and shippers, aside from the one operated by KT&S, he said.

Roy Catalani, Young Brothers vice president of strategic planning and government affairs, said Tuesday its Kahului Harbor container shipping customers use the KT&S scale. They receive the scale tickets from KT&S, and those are provided to Young Brothers for container weights.

Catalani said the company is aware of other businesses that have scales to weigh containers, but he wasn’t sure which ones would be open to the public.

“We’re currently reviewing the situation,” he said.

Matson ships out of Kahului Harbor, and it also requires accurate weights for all shipments, said Matson spokesman Keoni Wagner on Tuesday. He noted that there are other methods to weigh freight besides a truck scale.

Wilbourn said the scale has been in use for at least 40 years. It’s elevated to allow trucks carrying sugar or molasses to dump it through a conveyer. An elevated scale is not needed to weigh containers, he said.

The KT&S scale can handle a lot of weight – the average weight for a truck with two trailers carrying sugar and or molasses is about 27 to 30 tons, Wilbourn said.

As for the value of the scale, Wilbourn said a repairman told him it wasn’t worth much because of its age.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.