Port of Oakland says “Bring it on”

Maritime Director John Driscoll said in an interview today that newly formed ocean carrier alliances will benefit his port.

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A Port of Oakland executive is eager for changes in the way container shipping lines operate. Maritime Director John Driscoll said in an interview today that newly formed ocean carrier alliances will benefit his port.

“We’ll see larger vessels coming to the port, which is a good thing,” he recently told employees. “We’ll get more container moves-per-vessel which increases the efficiency of operations.”

Driscoll also said the port will receive a new weekly vessel service as a result of carrier realignment. Taiwan-based Wan Hai Lines plans to launch a new route connecting Oakland and Asia, he said. That will bring the number of regularly scheduled vessel services calling Oakland to 29. “It’s a good sign when new players come to Oakland,” the Maritime Director said.

As reported in LM, the changes are a consequence the April 1st realignment in which 11 of the world’s largest shipping lines formed three new alliances.

In a perfect world, alliances permit carriers pool ships on ocean routes to cut costs while expanding market reach. The carriers plan to deploy larger vessels in their alliances, carrying more containers to the U.S. West Coast. That may enable them to reduce the number of voyages while maintaining cargo volume levels. But all ports - including Oakland - may be facing major challenges. At the recently concludied "Critical Cargoes Conference" in New Orleans many voiced their concerns. 

For Tom Perdue, chief commercial officer, Ports America, this season may bring "a perfect storm" as carriers try to synchronize calls to various terminals that may not be prepared for sudden surges in volume.

“We are entering new territory here,” he says, “and many terminal operators are concerned about the critical mass of boxes being staged at one port or another.”

Donna Lemm, Executive Vice President of National Sales, IMC Companies, LLC, echoed that concern, noting that her customers are fairly frantic about securing enough container chassis as Alliances get their acts together.

“We have been given few assurances about how many chassis will be available, and who will be charged with providing them,” she says. “BCOs are also worried about finding enough containers for outbound moves when they are most needed.”

Driscoll, nonetheless, remains bullish:

“When shipping lines can be more efficient – and healthier financially – we all benefit.”

Driscoll said new alliance configurations should have little impact on Oakland operations. Some vessels will change which of Oakland’s three international marine terminals they call, but the terminals are prepared, he said.

The first vessels operating under new alliance configurations are due in Oakland this week. Oakland has regular service to ports in Asia, Northern Europe and the Mediterranean, Latin America, Oceania and Hawaii.


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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