As a publicly traded company, Matson Inc. had to keep a tight lid on the arrival of the massive 854-foot Kaimana Hila, one of the largest container ships ever built in the United States, at least until the official announcement on Aug. 7.   

“When we first learned about the ship coming to Guam, we couldn’t tell you,” said Bernie Valencia, Matson vice president and general manager for Guam and Micronesia. “We can’t say things in public, right? We had to just check secretly that the (Port Authority of Guam) cranes would be able to work our ship.”

After working confidentially with officials to ensure requirements were met, Matson brought the Kaimana Hila into Guam’s port on Tuesday.

Matson’s largest vessel, and one of its fastest

“The Kaimana Hila’s arrival is the beginning of a new era for the island, and Guam and Micronesia,” Valencia said during a ceremony Tuesday. “It’s not only Matson’s largest vessel, it’s also one of the fastest.”

With a name that translates into “Diamond Head” from Hawaiian, the Kaimana Hila is able to travel at 23.5 knots and has a capacity of over 3,600 20-foot equivalent units – the standard measurement for container capacity. This is almost 900 containers more than other Matson ships serving Guam, Valencia said.   

The ship was built in Philadelphia and is the second of two state-of-the art “Aloha Class” container ships built for Matson, costing about $418 million together. They are the largest container ships built in the U.S. The other vessel was named Daniel K. Inouye, after Hawaii’s late U.S. senator.

“('Kaimana Hila') was one of his favorite songs,’” Valencia said. The name refers to Hawaii’s iconic volcano crater and cone near Waikiki Beach. 

New ships meet stricter environmental regulations

The pair are part of four new ships Matson has invested in, totaling about $1 billion, she added. 

“As part of our growth, that’s why the ships are here. We also have ships that are aging, so … we’re making sure we meet all the stricter environmental regulations in the future,” Valencia said. 

Matson also recently christened the Lurline, the first of two new “Kanaloa Class” container ships, which will be placed into Hawaii service later, according to a press release from Matson. The fourth ship, the Matsonia, will be delivered to Matson in 2020, the release added. 

The Kaimana Hila will visit Guam once every five weeks and dock on island usually just overnight.

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