Sending eastbound freight to the mainland or westbound freight to Honolulu Harbor on Oʻahu? There are a few nuances you need to know that can make all the difference for your timeline and your budget.

In this article, we’ll show you what you need to know about shipping freight to and from Oʻahu—and moving it around the island to locations like Waikiki, Honolulu, Kapolei, and beyond. With these tips, you’ll uncover a new level of ease in getting your freight where it needs to go, efficiently and cost-efficiently.

#1: Choose the Right Mode for Your Shipment

Freight arrives to Oʻahu via one of two modes: air freight or ocean freight. Each comes with its own advantages, so you’ll want to choose carefully.

Air Freight

Speed: Fast; air freight to and from Oʻahu can arrive in as little as a few days—or faster, depending on how much you’re willing to pay.

Cost: Relatively expensive, when compared to ocean freight. However, for some shippers, the speed advantage outweighs the cost.

Best for: Time-sensitive, high-value, lightweight freight.

Ideal Commodities: Electronics, precision instruments; textiles and leather; pharmaceuticals; high-end accessories like handbags and jewelry; fresh meat and seafood; and medical/surgical equipment.

Oʻahu Freight Tip: Large, oversized items (bigger than 20’ long, 8’ high, and 8’ wide are extremely difficult to move via air freight. Look to ocean freight to move these types of shipments.

Speed: Slower; transit time for freight from the West Coast to Honolulu Harbor is ~5 days. You’ll need to add a few days on either end to accommodate for the freight cut-off and delivery to calculate your arrival date.

Oʻahu Freight Tip: To keep your Oʻahu-bound freight moving, look for providers who can offer twice-weekly sails to Honolulu Harbor. That way, your freight will only sit for a minimal amount of time before getting on an Oʻahu-bound vessel.

Cost: One of the cheapest methods to ship freight to Oʻahu. However, it’s also one of the slowest. When shipping Oʻahu freight, you’ll need to decide what matters most to you: cost or speed.

Best for: Moving freight on a budget. For heavy and oversized freight, ocean freight may be your only option.

Ideal Commodities: All kinds of freight of all sizes. Heavy and oversized freight, including construction equipment, can move to Oʻahu via ocean freight. There’s also need to ship an entire container. Less-than-container load options are available. (Read more below!)

#2: Consider a Consolidation for Your Oʻahu Ocean Freight Shipment

If you’re new to ocean freight, you might think you need to ship an entire container of goods to make it worth your while.

Less-than-container loads—also called consolidations—can be a cost-effective way to ship a few pallets to or from Oʻahu. (Or even a single pallet!)

Here’s how it works:

  • You tell your freight forwarder exactly what you want to ship—the commodity, the dimensions, and the weight. Palletized shipments that are up to at 84″ tall, 80″ wide and 48″ deep usually result in the best pricing.
  • Your forwarder will send you a quote. In a consolidation, you essentially pay only for the space you need.
  • Once you accept the quote, you’ll send your freight to the forwarder’s warehouse.
  • Your forwarder collects other freight shipments bound for the same destination.
  • Then, the forwarder loads all the freight into a container, sends it via steamship line to the nearest port, trucks it to a warehouse, unpacks it on arrival, and then delivers each shipment to its final location.

For mainland freight, we partner with our DeWitt sister company, Approved Freight Forwarders. Between our two teams, we can handle most every kind of freight to and from Oʻahu, and we offer twice-weekly sail dates. Get a quote for your next LCL shipment from our team.

#3: Oʻahu’s Famous Traffic Can Be a Factor

If you’ve spent any time driving around Oʻahu, you know that traffic can be a real problem. (Especially when going in and out of Honolulu at rush hour!)

The delivery crews that move freight all over the island have to deal with this same issue. As a result, scheduling can become critical.

Some companies arrange for early-morning deliveries, which means receiving freight before business hours. These deliveries arrive at more predictable times since there’s less congestion.

If you’re shopping for an Oʻahu freight provider, talk to them up front about your delivery times. Anything you can do to schedule deliveries or pick-ups outside of the busiest traffic windows will benefit your business. (Especially if you’re located in Honolulu or Waikiki!)

And that brings us to our next Oʻahu freight tip…

#4: Asset-Based Oʻahu Forwarders Mean Priority Scheduling

As you select your Oʻahu freight provider, you’ll discover that some are asset-based, while others use agents.

An asset-based freight provider owns its own Oʻahu fleet and employs its own crews. Freight providers that leverage agents essentially outsource pickups and deliveries to other trucking companies on Oʻahu.

In some cases, you might not experience a difference between these two types of providers.

However, there’s one key difference you should be aware of:

Using an asset-based freight provider on Oʻahu means you’re more likely to get the pick-up and delivery times you’re looking for.

Here’s why: Direct customers tend to get first choice when it comes to scheduling. However, when the company you’re working with uses agents, you’re essentially going through a middle man. This might mean that your requests don’t get the same level of priority as a direct customer.

When you’re shopping for a new Oʻahu freight provider, ask them about scheduling priority—and whether they have the time slots you’re looking for.

And if you feel as though you’re not getting the priority service you deserve from your Oʻahu freight provider, consider shopping around to another company, one that owns its own fleet.

#5: Honolulu Deliveries Can Be Tricky (Especially in Waikiki!)

We already talked about one of the major challenges with Honolulu and Waikiki deliveries: traffic.

Truck drivers in Honolulu and Waikiki also have another major challenge to contend with: Many businesses, including hotels, don’t have loading docks to receive freight. Where there is an existing dock, it’s usually busy with deliveries. As a result, when delivering items in Waikiki, sometimes drivers have to park wherever they can and move freight by hand.

When you’re starting with a new freight provider, they may ask detailed questions about accessing your business. They may even want to do a site visit to understand the best way to move your freight, safely and easily. We’d suggest giving your provider as much information as possible—as well as the opportunity for a site visit. That way, the drivers who deliver your freight will bring the right equipment for a safe, simple freight delivery.

Here’s our general rule of thumb: The less your freight needs to be handled, the better. If there’s any way to make it easier for your freight provider to access your place of business—and reduce handling—the more likely your freight will arrive in excellent condition.

#6: Access Issues Are a Possibility All Over Oʻahu

Even outside Wakiki, deliveries can still be challenging on Oʻahu. As they navigate the island, truck drivers periodically encounter issues with:

  • Low-hanging wires, which may keep a larger truck from accessing a location for a pick-up or delivery.
  • Narrow roads, alleyways, and driveways. Trucking companies may need to use smaller equipment to safely navigate these areas and pick up or deliver your freight.

For all these reasons, it’s important to choose an Oʻahu freight provider with a diverse fleet of owned equipment. We have a fleet of box trucks, flatbeds, and tractor-trailers, and we pick the right truck for each delivery, based on the scenario.

Oʻahu Freight Tip: Make sure you tell your freight provider if you have preferences about breaking your freight down. For some deliveries, we need to use smaller equipment to access a location. As a result, we may need to break down the freight to fit in the smaller truck.

If you’d prefer not to have your freight broken down, discuss this with your provider up front so you can receive your freight the way you want it.

#7: Know Your Freight Service Levels

Whether you’re receiving freight in Waikiki, Honolulu, Kapolei, Ko Olina, Kailua, or another Oʻahu destination, it’s important to know your freight service levels so you get the assistance you need.

Curbside Delivery/Pick-Up

  • What’s included: Curbside delivery and pick-up are considered standard freight services. The driver will pick up or deliver freight to the curb, which might mean from a loading dock, at the end of a driveway, or at a warehouse door.
  • What’s not included: The driver isn’t required to come inside or move freight across the threshold. Curbside service also doesn’t include unpacking or debris removal.

Inside Delivery/Pick-Up

  • What’s included: The driver enters the place of business to pick up or deliver the freight. In an inside delivery/pick-up, the driver comes just inside the threshold—not much farther.
  • What’s not included: The driver is not required to walk long hallways, climb stairs, or use an elevator. Like curbside service, unpacking and debris removal is also not included.

White Glove Service

  • What’s included: White glove is the highest freight service level available. It’s also completely customizable to your needs. If you need help with unpacking, assembly, putting freight in place, and removing debris, white glove delivery is the right choice for your delivery. On the pick-up side, white glove service can include accessing freight wherever it’s located within a building, packing it for transit, and then loading it on a truck to move it to its next destination.

Whatever service level you choose, make sure to discuss it with your provider ahead of time. That way, the driver will arrive with the right equipment and supplies to pick up or deliver your freight the way you want it.

Efficient and Cost-Effective Oʻahu Freight Shipments

Now that you understand the ins and outs of Oʻahu freight, you’re better positioned to get your shipment where it needs to go, on the right timeline and on your budget.

If you have any questions—or you want a quote for your next Oʻahu or Honolulu freight project—our experts would love to help. Just reach out, and we’ll help you put together a cost-effective solution for your next Oʻahu freight project.

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