Matson to Pay State $15.4M for 2013 Molasses Spill

Jul 29, 2015

An aerial photo of the molasses spill in Keehi Lagoon in September 2013.
Credit Hawaii Department of Health

The state and Matson Navigation Co. have agreed on a $15.4 million settlement. The Hawai‘i-based shipping company was responsible for a leak in 2013 that released more than 230,000 gallons of molasses, devastating coral and marine life in Honolulu Harbor.  And as HPR’s Molly Solomon reports, it’s one of the largest settlements of its kind.

It’s been called one of the biggest environmental disasters in state history. The massive spill, nearly two years ago, resulted in the death of 26,000 fish and other marine life. It also killed tens of thousands of coral, many of which will likely take years, if not decades, to recover.

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin announced a $15.4 million settlement between the State of Hawaii and Matson Navigation Co. regarding the 2013 molasses spill in Honolulu Harbor.
Credit Molly Solomon

“This really was a widespread decimation,” said Hawai‘i Attorney General Doug Chin. He believes the $15.4 million dollar settlement is one of the largest payments for an environmental violation in Hawai‘i’s history. “It sends a message that Hawai‘i is going to take environmental incidents very, very seriously.”

$5.9 million of the total will reimburse the state for cleanup costs and expenses, including nearly 2 million dollars in legal fees alone. It will also help support a conservation conference next year and help regrow a coral nursery on O‘ahu.

The remaining $9.5 million will pay for the removal of molasses equipment at Honolulu Harbor and a tank farm that was used to store the sticky substance. As part of the agreement, Chin says Matson will also end its molasses operations in the state. “That will ensure that no molasses ever harms this harbor again and causes the damage that it did.”

The massive spill killed more than 26,000 fish and marine life in waters around Honolulu Harbor.
Credit Molly Solomon

In an emailed statement, Matson President and CEO Matt Cox responded to the settlement. “Environmental stewardship is a core value in our company, so this event was a blow to all of us at Matson,” said Cox. “We can’t take back what happened, but we’ve done our best to make it right.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently reviewing the state’s settlement to decide if the federal agency will pursue further legal action.

Read the full report on the molasses spill settlement filed by Matson: 

Matson Molasses Report