Pilots recant opposition to docking megas

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HONOLULU -- The cruise industry's megaships are now allowed to dock at Kauai's Nawiliwili harbor following months of uncertainty in which Hawaii's harbor pilots practiced steering the ships in Alaska and Florida.

Earlier in the year, when megaships in the 965-foot range started showing up in Hawaii on repositioning cruises, harbor pilots said the ships were too large and the technology too new for them to be brought into Kauai's narrow "S"-shaped port.

Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas in Lahaina, Maui, with the island of Lanai in the background. Pilots twice balked at bringing Celebrity Cruises' 965-foot, 91,000-ton Infinity into Kauai's harbor last spring. But after spending the summer practicing on the ships, the pilots said they now have the know-how to steer them into Nawiliwili, but only under "ideal weather conditions."

"The Hawaii Pilots Association will continue to evaluate the appropriateness and safety of bringing these ships into Nawiliwili in the future," the pilots said in a letter to state officials. The pilots' decision regarding Infinity also is good news for Norwegian Cruise Lines, which will base its 965-foot, 91,000-ton Norwegian Star in Hawaii, with weekly calls on Kauai starting Dec. 16. The ship will offer weeklong Hawaiian island cruises from Honolulu.

Other megaships scheduled to come here in the next year include Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas and Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Spirit. Kauai Visitors Bureau president Sue Kanoho said after seeing the Carnival Spirit in port recently, she realized the pilots have legitimate concerns.

"After seeing the size of it, it left me speechless," said Kanoho. "I fully appreciate the concern the pilots have. The good news is that they didn't say, 'No, we're not going to pilot them in here,' but at the same time you really need to respect the safety issue."

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