Exports surge through Port of Oakland

Shipment volume up 7 percent in April,16 percent for the year

By ·

An export rebound continues to build steam at the Port of Oakland, as it also continues to ease drayage congestion with innovative logistics management strategies.

Spokesmen for the port said today that containerized export volume increased 7 percent last month from a year ago.  It was the fourth consecutive month of increases in Oakland. Spokesmen added that 2016 export volume is up 16.3 percent through April. 

That’s welcome news following a 2015 decline that saw Oakland exports drop 11.5 percent.  The port attributed export gains to a weaker dollar that makes U.S. goods more affordable overseas.

Port Maritime Director, John Driscoll, noted that these stats suggest an uptick the fortunes of its shippers.

Indeed, shippers moved the equivalent of 300,000 20-foot export containers so far this year.  By comparison, inbound stats indicate the equivalent of 277,000 20-foot import boxes.  The contrast reflects Oakland’s status as a leading U.S. export gateway.  Most American ports handle more imports than exports.

Total cargo volume in Oakland – imports, exports and empty containers – declined 6.3 percent in April, the port said.  That was due primarily to a near 30 percent drop in empty container shipments.  For the year, Oakland’s total cargo volume is up 11.3 percent.
And while inbound cargo has remained at disappointing levels, the port is preparing for a rebound once “mega vessels” begin making more frequent calls.

A $1.5 million subsidy program to stimulate night and weekend business at the port has been extended, and its largest marine terminal operator says it will use the program to further expand weeknight operations. The announcement comes as the Port abandons its traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. operating model.

“The old way doesn’t work any longer,” said Port Executive Director Chris Lytle. “There’s too much business; we have to stay open longer to get cargo in and out of Oakland.”

Port Commissioners voted last week to continue through June 30 the fund that partially subsidizes extended gate hours. It had been scheduled to expire this week.

Oakland International Container Terminal (OICT), which handles 67 percent of Oakland’s cargo, said it will tap the fund immediately. The terminal has operated nights and Saturdays for two months to ease pressure on busy weekday cargo operations. Now it intends to conduct additional nighttime transactions Tuesdays-through-Thursdays, 6 p.m. to 3 a.m., during a four-week trial.

The new transactions include accepting containerized export loads and receiving and releasing empty containers. The expanded-transaction trial begins May 10. Other nighttime transactions already in place include:

• Refrigerated container handling;
• Containerized import pick-up by customers using an express service known as the one-stop, free-flow program; and
• Import pick-up for containers loaded on chassis for immediate drayage.

“We’re counting on harbor drivers to take advantage of these added nighttime features,” said Driscoll. “

Extra gate hours are intended to give harbor truckers more time to pick-up and deliver containerized cargo. Until recently, they had only been allowed through terminal gates on weekdays. By working nights or Saturdays, drivers can avoid lines that sometime build up on the dayside Monday-through-Friday. The upshot, the port said, is faster cargo delivery to shippers.

Oakland International Container Terminal said it’s conducting up to 600 transactions every night and 1,200 on Saturdays. The port said those numbers should grow as more business migrates from weekday operations.


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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