When it comes to maximizing income from Waikiki’s catamaran operations, the administrative rules for the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) would have to be amended to allow them to be issued via a public auction, according to division administrator Ed Underwood.
The catamarans have the potential to make a lot of money. The six permitted operations that have a DOBOR permit to load and unload passengers and set anchor on Waikiki beach can carry dozens of passengers at a time. The Mana Kai can carry 26 people, while the Makani can carry nearly 80. A daytime tour can cost $20/hour to more than $40/hour a head, while a Friday fireworks sail goes for $50 to $100 a head.
Permittees currently pay DOBOR a monthly rent of $200 or three percent of gross receipts, whichever is greater.
When DOBOR sought board approval last September to renew the permits, Land Board member Keone Downing said the three percent of gross revenues seemed low and questioned why the permits aren’t auctioned off.
Underwood conceded that “there would be a huge interest in these permits” if they were put up for auction. However, his report to the board explained that no other parties are eligible to receive a similar permit “because it is concurrent with the issuance of a Waikiki Catamaran Registration from the department to operate catamarans on Waikiki Beach. The permittees listed herein are the only companies possessing such a registration.”
Even so, Downing suggested that the division audit each permittee’s account and if and when the board takes up the matter of auctioning off the permits, it could also address the percentage rent.
Unlike permits for thrill craft and parasail operations, which can be auctioned off, Underwood said DOBOR would need to amend its rules to auction the Waikiki catamaran permits.
“It’s something to look at,” Downing said.
“It does seem to fly in the face of other commercial activities on the beach. [If there is] interest beyond the six, it does strike me as inequitable,” board member Sam Gon said, expressing surprise that no one from the public had shown up to testify on the matter.
Underwood said that his division has an auditor that could carry out Downing’s request.
— Teresa Dawson