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Harbor History


The Island of Oahu is distinguished by three of the State's nine commercial harbors - Barbers Point, Kewalo Basin and Honolulu Harbor.  Barbers Point Harbor, on the leeward, westerly side of the island, is in the vicinity of the developing city of Kapolei, while Kewalo Basin and Honolulu Harbor are located on the leeward, south shore, in the only well-sheltered area available for commercial purposes.

The city of Honolulu's central business district and government offices grew around Honolulu Harbor and Kewalo Basin.  This area, from the Ala Moana Shopping Center swinging around to the Sand Island industrial district, is typically dominated by intensive harbor and waterfront activities.  It is characterized by Kewalo Basin's fishing, excursion and dinner cruise vessel facilities, Honolulu Harbor's cargo and passenger terminals, bunkering facilities, marine repair docks, vessel moorings and lay berths, the Aloha Tower Marketplace, the central business district and the Kakaako, Iwilei, Kapalama and Sand Island industrial complexes, A network of highways connects this waterfront area with all of the outlying urban areas.

Honolulu's population followed suit and grew to 127,000 in 1920.

Kewalo Basin, a harbor of approximately 55 acres including ocean acreage, was first constructed in the 1920s to ease the congestion in Honolulu Harbor and provide docking for lumber schooners.  By the time the concrete wharf was finished in 1926, lumber schooners had begun to fade out and by 1929 commercial fishing operations moved into Kewalo Basin.

Half of the bulkhead along the mauka side of Kewalo Basin was built in 1928.  The remainder of Kewalo Basin's mauka bulkhead was constructed in 1934. 

The city's population - 154,000 in 1939; 179,358 in 1940; and 200,000 in 1941.

During the war (WWII), Kewalo Basin was dredged and expanded.

During the post-war boom, Honolulu's population climbed to 248,000 and $46.7 million of construction projects were started in 1950.

Kewalo Basin's Waikiki bulkhead was constructed in 1951. 

Kewalo Basin's fishing gear shed and paving on the Waikiki side of the mooring basin were also completed in 1954.  In 1955, approximately eight acres of filled land was deposited along the makai side of Kewalo Basin to form a peninsula protected by rock revetment.

In 1955  Kewalo Basin's wooden herringbone pier was constructed. 

With the advent of Statehood on August 21, 1959, Hawaii's economy changed and continued to grow. Buoyed by the additional capabilities of the harbor, the city's population breached 294,000 and construction topped $164 million in 1960.

A 9-acre barge harbor was constructed on Campbell Estate lands at Barbers Point in 1961.  This small harbor enabled neighboring industries to ship their products by barge to the other islands.  Because of its size and surge problems, however, the harbor realized only limited barge use and was more popular for recreational fishing.  Government efforts would later transform this barge harbor into the Barbers Point Deep Draft Harbor.

Governor Bums dedicated the Look Laboratory of Oceanographic Engineering at Kewalo Basin on July 28, 1964.

In 1968 an extension to Kewalo Basin's wharf was constructed.

In 1969, Kewalo Basin, the concrete herringbone pier and larger concrete catwalks were constructed along the Ala Moana Boulevard face and along the seaward face of Kewalo.

In 1970  another concrete-decked catwalk was installed in Kewalo Basin.  Recent harbor developments encouraged the city's population growth to 324,871 and island construction was valued at $386.7 million.

In 1972, while repairs to Kewalo Basin's rockwall, jetty and aku catwalks were completed.

In 1974, Kewalo Basin's Herringbone Pier renovated.

In 1977-1978 Kewalo Basin, catwalk II 9-120 and the marginal wharf's fender system were replaced.

While planning for Oahu's second deep-draft harbor at Barbers Point began in 1958, the joint Federal-State dredging project did not begin until 1982.  When the project was completed, the Corps of Engineers turned control of the harbor over to the State on May 2, 1986.  It consisted of a total 387 acres with an entrance channel (450 feet wide, 4,280 feet long, and 42 feet deep), a harbor basin (I 14 acres, with a depth of 38 feet), and a 4,700-foot wave and energy absorber along the northern and western periphery of the main basin. Located 19 nautical miles west of Honolulu Harbor near the Southwestern tip of the island, Barbers Point Harbor serves to alleviate some of the strain placed on Honolulu Harbor by its growing cargo activities.

Also in 1986, new 40- and 50-foot concrete catwalks and aku boat catwalks were constructed to replace Kewalo Basin's herringbone pier and other structures.

In 1988 at Kewalo Basin, the building housing the offices of the charter boat operators was renovated and the surrounding area landscaped.

In 1992, the city's population grew to 377,000 as construction projects that year approached $1.2 billion.