Business owners on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi rely on ocean freight to deliver the supplies that keep their operations moving.

To help add ease to your next Big Island ocean freight shipment, we put together this guide. Whether your freight is moving through Hilo Harbor or Kawaihae Harbor, we’ll show you everything you need to know. The must-knows you’ll find below will help you keep your supply chain running efficiently, avoid common Big Island ocean freight pitfalls, and keep your costs manageable.

Big Island Freight Must-Know #1:

The Island Has Two Ports

If you live on the Big Island, you’re probably already aware of the two ports on the Big Island: Hilo Harbor on the windward side and Kawaihae Harbor on the leeward side.

We occasionally get calls from off-island agents or freight forwarders who mistakenly believe that Hilo Harbor is the only port on the island. They’re surprised to learn there’s a port near Kailua-Kona, and they’re happy to have a more efficient option for freight headed for destinations on the Kona coast.

Just to clear up any lingering confusion, we put together a few fast facts on the Big Island’s ports:

Hilo Harbor

Location: Windward (eastern) coast of the Big Island, a few miles from downtown Hilo.

  • Processed 1.63 million short tons of bulk cargo in fiscal year 2022.
  • Receives bulk and containerized cargo, plus roll-on/roll-off traffic and cruise ships.

Kawaihae Harbor

Location: Leeward (western) coast of the Big Island, ~35 miles north of Kailua-Kona.

  • Processed more than 1 million short tons of cargo in fiscal year 2022.
  • Receives bulk and containerized cargo.
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Two Ports, Two Locations to Serve You

Royal Hawaiian Movers has one location in Hilo and one in Kailua-Kona to keep your freight moving efficiently. Although we work as one big team, having warehouses, equipment, and teams on both sides of the Big Island allows us to be more responsive to your needs—and deliver your freight fast.

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Big Island Freight Must-Know #2:

Direct Service Means Faster Arrival

There are two ways of sending ocean freight to the Big Island:

  • Some companies send all their freight to Oʻahu, move it to a warehouse, sort and segregate it, and then move it by interisland barge to either Hilo or Kawaihae.
  • Other companies sort and segregate at the origin point (on the mainland, for example), then send the freight directly to Hilo or Kawaihae without unloading and sorting in Oʻahu.

In other words, if you don’t want to unload and sort your freight on Oʻahu, you don’t have to. Direct service to the Big Island is available. Once your freight arrives in Honolulu, we can arrange for it to be transferred right to an interisland barge headed for Hilo or Kawaihae.

Direct service is faster. It’s more efficient. It will save you money in terms of taxes, warehousing, and transportation costs. And, in many cases, you can have your freight in hand as quickly as two weeks after it leaves the port in California.

At Royal Hawaiian, we encourage our customers to ship direct to Hilo or Kawaihae whenever possible. We coordinate these direct shipments with our sister company, Approved Freight Forwarders, which has their own dedicated terminal in Los Angeles.

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Get Your Freight—Fast—with Royal Hawaiian Movers

A close relationship with our sister company, Approved Freight Forwarders, means we can keep your freight moving from start to finish. Once we pick up your freight from the port, you can expect some of the most efficient delivery speeds available on the Big Island.

To learn more, reach out to speak with one of our Big Island freight experts.

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Big Island Freight Must-Know #3:

We Use the Right Equipment for the Situation

The Big Island presents challenging terrain for pick-ups and deliveries: narrow roads, heavy traffic, steep driveways, and uneven terrain.

In this work-from-home era, we’ve also seen an increasing number of freight deliveries to residential addresses, where driveways can be even steeper and terrain can vary from dirt to grass to gravel to paving.

To ensure the safest and most efficient service, we match our equipment carefully to the location:

Big Island Freight Must-Know #4:

Packaging Matters

The less you can handle it, the better

That’s our team’s #1 rule when it comes to freight. For most freight, that means palletizing it and shrink wrapping it so that it can be loaded and offloaded with a forklift for minimal handling. When items need to be hand-loaded, it increases the possibility for damage.

If at all possible, palletize and shrink wrap your freight for maximum protection. We also like to band ocean freight for extra protection, especially if it’s moving interisland, since it will be traveling on an open barge.

If you need assistance packaging your freight, just let our team know, and we’ll come up with a solution for you.

Not All Pallets Are Created Equal

If you’re new to freight, you might not realize that pallets come in standard sizes and not-so-standard sizes. Standard-size pallets measure either
48″ x 40″ or 42″ x 40″. On the not-so-standard side, we might see oversized pallets in sizes like 96″ x 48″.

The challenge? A standard forklift is designed for standard pallets. It may not be able to handle larger pallets.

As you palletize your freight, stick to the standard sizes to minimize both handling and the potential for damage.

Big Island Freight Must-Know #5:

“Inside Delivery” Sometimes Causes Confusion

Royal Hawaiian offers a full range of freight services: curbside delivery, inside delivery, white glove service, installations, debris removal, and more.

We’re more than happy to provide whatever freight services your project requires. We just need to know your needs ahead of time so we can get you an accurate quote—and show up with the right equipment and team members.

We also understand that the specialized terms used within the logistics industry can be confusing. Below, you’ll find a list of common freight services, so you know exactly what to ask for during your next project.

Freight Services

Curbside delivery/pick-up:

  • What’s included: Curbside service is exactly what it sounds like: when a carrier picks up or delivers freight to the curb. That might be at the back door of a retail store, at a warehouse door, or at the end of a driveway.
  • What’s not included: The driver isn’t required to cross the threshold, unpack the freight, or remove debris.

Inside delivery/pick-up:

  • What’s included: Inside deliveries mean that the carrier actually enters the warehouse or place of business to deliver or pick up the freight. However, the driver is only required to cross the threshold to drop or retrieve the freight.
  • What’s not included: The driver is not required to navigate long hallways, stairs, or elevators; unpack the freight; or remove debris.

White glove delivery/pick-up:

  • What’s included: White glove is the highest level of freight service available, and it’s highly customizable, based on your needs. For example, in a delivery scenario, the team could unpack your freight, put it in place, assemble it, and remove any debris. Where pick-ups are concerned, the team can retrieve your freight from its current location, pack it for transit, and load it on a truck to move it to its next destination.
  • How much does it cost? Let us know what services you’re looking for, and our team will put together a complimentary quote.

If you have any questions about what your delivery or pick-up includes (or what it doesn’t), it pays to ask up front. That way, the driver will arrive with all the equipment and assistance they need to do the job right.

Big Island Freight Must-Know #6:

Freight Class Really Does Matter

We handle both freight for businesses and household goods for residential customers. Unless you’ve worked in the logistics industry, you might not realize that shipping a container full of freight is different than shipping a container full of household goods.

In other words, you might think it’s possible to pack household goods in boxes, shrink wrap them to pallets, and ship them as freight.

There are a number of reasons why we can’t ship those household goods as freight, including the fact that steamship lines charge different rates for different types of cargo.

In other words, a 40′ container of household goods is charged a different rate than a container filled with pallets of beer or a container with freight all kinds (FAK)—even if they’re all headed for the exact same destination.

Additionally, mislabeling freight can also create liability problems if your shipment is lost or damaged. The type of coverage you purchase needs to match the shipment you’re moving, or you may not be made whole in case of a problem.

To sum it up, what you’re shipping matters. You can count on us to help you find the best price for your shipment and ensure that it’s handled properly, no matter what you’re shipping.

Have More Questions About Big Island Freight?

We’d be happy to answer them! We’ve been moving shipments to and from the Big Island of Hawaiʻi since 2001. We know all the ins and outs of moving cargo all around the island, and we can get your shipment wherever it needs to go.

Interisland freight, mainland freight, international freight—along with our sister company, Approved Freight Forwarders, we can make it all happen from door to door.

Just reach out to one of our freight experts to learn more.

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