COVID-19 shipping shutdown rumors circulate in Hawaii
by Michael Hansen, Hawaii Shippers Council, March 14, 2020
The Honolulu Star Advertiser published on March 14, 2020, the news article, “Coronavirus panic buying spikes after rumor of a Hawaii shipment shutdown goes viral,” reporting that widespread rumors of a shipping shutdown by Matson Navigation Company Inc. lasting a month or more caused panic buying of household necessities at stores around the state.
The rumors are completely unfounded and false.
Matson issued a statement on Friday, March 13th, “All Matson operations continue uninterrupted. Matson intends to maintain all service schedules as normal with three arrivals a week to Honolulu and twice a week calls to each neighbor island port. Matson is committed to taking all appropriate steps to ensure the continuation of services, including the deployment of reserve vessels if necessary to continue meeting the needs of our customers."
Excerpts from the Honolulu Star Advertiser article:
Another epidemic hit Hawaii on Friday.
It wasn’t coronavirus, but to some it was pretty dreadful: a message about a Hawaii shipping shutdown.
The message was false. But versions of it spread faster than COVID-19 and prompted some residents to engage in even more panic buying of food, toilet paper and other supplies than has been going on for more than two weeks in the islands — where most consumer goods arrive from the mainland by ship.
Yet on Friday untrue statements from hazy sources about Hawaii’s shipping lifeline reached an exceptional level of community spread largely via text and word of mouth.
At one Honolulu Starbucks store, a customer heard from an employee that Matson, Hawaii’s largest ocean cargo carrier, closed its docks Friday morning.
The Starbucks worker was passing along information he received from the manager of another Starbucks. That manager received a text from another employee that said, “Just fyi, they haven’t made an announcement, but Matson’s shutting down. They also shut the dock down last night at 10.”
A follow-up text attempted to provide a bona fide original source for the information. It said, “My friends sisters husband works at the docks.”
This message and similar ones about Matson service being disrupted aren’t true, and prompted Matson along with state and county officials to issue their own alerts to stop the rumors from spreading further.
One man, who didn’t want to give his name but battled long lines to buy toilet paper and other things at Costco in Hawaii Kai on Friday, said he heard that Matson was going to have a two-week break in its Hawaii service. His source: a friend he was surfing with at about dawn in Waikiki who works at a hotel and supposedly heard it from a co-worker who also works part time at Matson.
More than 100 shoppers lined up outside the Costco store three hours before it was scheduled to open Friday, and an hour after opening an estimated 500 or so customers had poured in and about 100 people were in a slowly moving queue to get in.
Another version of the bogus rumor came in the form of this text: “Hey. My friend just informed me that her friends brother who works for Matson (the shipping company) said they are stopping shipments for 30 days to Hawaii. So I guess we need to load up on can Good’s.”
Francis Scanlan Jr., a shipping container truck driver, said he heard the buzz about a supposed shipping shutdown Thursday and knew it wasn’t true. “That’s just like one rumor,” he said. “They can’t stop shipments. That’s the only way everybody’s going to get their stuff.”
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Matson Debunks Rumors: Operations continue uninterrupted
News Release from Matson, March 13, 2020
“All Matson operations continue uninterrupted. Matson intends to maintain all service schedules as normal with three arrivals a week to Honolulu and twice a week calls to each neighbor island port.
“Matson is committed to taking all appropriate steps to ensure the continuation of services, including the deployment of reserve vessels if necessary to continue meeting the needs of our customers.
“Matson is monitoring developments closely and ensuring compliance with all United States Coast Guard and local, federal and international government reporting and prevention directives for maritime operations. Matson also has frequent and regular communication with the United States Coast Guard and Hawaii State Department of Transportation regarding commercial port operations.”
HDOT: “All HDOT harbors and airports in Hawaiʻi continue to be open and operational. Any reports of their closing due to COVID-19 are inaccurate.”
SA: Coronavirus panic buying spikes after rumor of a Hawaii shipment shutdown goes viral
PBN: Hawaii shipping companies say it's business as usual despite COVID-19 concerns