A new Oahu company soon will start tapping into one of Hawaii’s biggest exports — water. Deep Ocean Hawaii early this week will launch its first vessel, the Spirit of the North, to harvest deep-ocean water 3.4 miles off the Waianae coast. Honolulu-based Deep Ocean says it is the first company to use a mobile system to pump deep seawater, instead of piping it from shore.
It comes on the heels of a handful of deep-water harvesters already established in the state, including Big Island water bottler Koyo USA Corp., which operates the largest deep-sea water bottling plant in the world.
Deep Ocean, operated under the company’s larger umbrella, DSH International Inc., is marketing its water as an ingredient for everything from drinks such as beer and juice to beauty products including lotions and cosmetics.
“Clients see it as a way to differentiate,” Deep Ocean Vice President Rich Treadway said. “With deep-ocean water, nothing manmade has ever been in the water.”
The water, drawn from a hose lowered 2,000 feet below the surface from the moored boat, is free of most contaminants because it is pulled from below a deep thermocline layer, Treadway said.
The company tested the mobile harvesting process on a barge for three months this fall.
The water is put through a desalination process on the 144-foot Spirit, a former Alaska fishing vessel, and packaged into 5,200-gallon bladders, the same kind used to transport other foods, such as syrup, Treadway said. It is then put in 20-foot cargo containers on a barge that makes a daylong trek every week to Honolulu Harbor, where the water is offloaded and transported to clients around the world.
Deep Ocean plans to produce 80,000 gallons of fresh water a day, although the processing equipment can be adjusted to generate 500,000 gallons if demand grows.
Treadway declined to name buyers or give price estimates for the water, but said initial interest has been in the bottled water industry. Next month’s production already has been sold, he said.
“The interest is enormous,” he said. “The potential clients we are talking to are very, very big, and they are international.”
Koyo’s MaHaLo Hawaii Deep Sea water retails for $67.50 a case, each containing 15 1.5-liter bottles.
Koyo, which has three plants and the capability to produce more than 900,000 bottles of water a day, ships 200,000 bottles of water daily to Japan, its primary market, said Yutaka Ishiyama, Koyo’s sales and marketing manager.
It is one of four deep-sea water companies operating on Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority land in Kailua-Kona, where two other companies are planning to build production facilities.
Koyo, opened in 2003, is the state’s top exporter across all industries, according to NELHA. The company declined to disclose financial information because it is privately held.
Deep Ocean, developed over the past four years by Chief Executive Rudy Ahrens and director Wilfried Dreyfuss, is focused on the food, beverage, health and beauty markets, as well as emergency uses for its mobile-water processing technology, which is in patent-pending status, Treadway said.
The company has 12 employees and is looking to expand quickly, he said, without providing specific hiring estimates.