Maritime chief at Port of Oakland shares his vision: Part II

Port of Oakland Director of Maritime John C. Driscoll has now been at his post for nearly a year. In this exclusive two-part interview, he shares some of the lessons he’s learned so far, and relates his vision for the future.

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Port of Oakland Director of Maritime John C. Driscoll has now been at his post for nearly a year. In this exclusive two-part interview, he shares some of the lessons he’s learned so far, and relates his vision for the future.

Logistics Management: Bigger vessels pose a great many challenges, especially on the drayage side. Are you anticipating more truck congestion at the terminals, or has this concern been addressed?

John Driscoll: There is an inherent challenge for terminal operators when a big vessel has to be worked simply because it has more cargo than smaller ships. Turn times are improving and we are continuing to address any congestion issues.

We are asking the terminals to consider extending operating hours and implementing a fee-based system to cover the associated costs. Last year (2013) we brought together for the first time all key participants in the maritime supply chain to address truckers’ concerns about congestion. We convened a Terminal Efficiency Working Group which goes above and beyond our monthly Trucker Working Group meetings that began in 2007.

We will continue to work with the owner-operators in our Trucker Efficiency Task Force along with other key stakeholders including trucking company owners, CTA (California Trucking Association), PMSA (Pacific Merchant Shipping Association), terminal operators, and others to make our port more efficient and business friendly.

LM: Finally, where does Oakland see the greatest growth? Will reefer or e-commerce be significant drivers?

Driscoll: Our goal is to outperform the existing market share. Expanding imports through Oakland is an area of great opportunity. The Port of Oakland, in partnership with the City of Oakland, broke ground last year on a $500 million Phase 1 redevelopment of the former Oakland Army Base into Oakland Global, a modern, intermodal, trade and logistics center. Phase 1 includes new utilities across the entire site, a new bulk terminal, modern warehousing and cold storage facilities; and a new rail yard on the Port side of the property. Oakland Global will provide tremendous value to our business partners by having both cold store and dry bulk transloading facilities in the heart of the seaport.

We are currently big-ship ready with post-Panamax cranes, 50 feet of deep water, ample capacity and two Class I railroads. We are looking to drive additional volumes of cargo through Oakland. The import side of our maritime business has great potential for growth.

Additionally, due to an expanding middle class in Asia, and in particular China, there is consumer market demand for high quality California and US agricultural products. Since the Port of Oakland is situated mid-point on the U.S. West Coast, California agricultural exporters gain a competitive advantage by using our seaport. Agricultural commodities move to Asia from Oakland with the fastest US West Coast transit times due to this centric geographic location.

And most ocean services leave directly to Asia from Oakland without calling other US ports. Looking at these factors combined, we see the potential for expanding our export throughput as well. We reached a new milestone in 2013 exporting more than one million TEUs.

Reefer traffic is clearly a valued market for us. The Port of Oakland is the number one port in the country for US agriculture. In fact, we are in the process of selecting a developer to build and operate a new, state-of-the-art, cold storage logistics facility in our maritime area. This will serve existing and future customers who move chilled and frozen cargo through the Port of Oakland, whether they’re imports or exports.

About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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Ports · Seaports · Shipping · All Topics
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