• Powell Slaughter

Port of Oakland predicts record growth

OAKLAND, Calif. – The Port of Oakland, the nation's fifth-busiest container port, set its all-time record for import cargo in July. In handling the equivalent of 84,835 loaded 20-foot import containers, the 90-year-old port surpassed its previous record of 84,023 TEUs set in March 2015. And it expects to set more records in coming years.

Port officials said that July import volume increased 5.4% over the same period a year ago. The surge comes at the start of peak season when shippers transport additional cargo ahead of holiday and back-to-school sales.

The Port attributed the cargo increase to the economic health of its core market in Northern California and Western Nevada and to the continued strength of U.S. consumer spending. 

“Retailers have been forecasting strong peak season import numbers this year, and so far, they’re right,” said Maritime Director John Driscoll. “We’re glad to support them, and we are ready for more.”

The port reported that import volume through the first seven months of 2017 increased 3.7% compared with the prior year, even as the number of vessels visiting Oakland during that period declined 7.6%. The Port said shipping lines are transporting more cargo to Oakland on fewer but larger ships.

The Port of Oakland loads and discharges more than 99% of the containerized goods moving through Northern California, the nation's fourth-largest metropolitan area. About 75.8% of Oakland's trade is with Asia.

Oakland maritime officials expect the growth to continue, anticipating a five-year run of record cargo volume beginning next year. By 2022, the Port expects to handle the equivalent of 2.6 million TEUs annually. That would be 8% more volume than the Port has ever processed in a single year.

A Strategic Maritime Roadmap for the future, released by the Port this month, foresees increased cargo volume arriving at Oakland on larger ships. Northern California’s booming freight market will drive the growth, Port officials said. New logistics capabilities, such as distribution centers and freight transfer facilities, should provide a further boost.

“We’re serving a thriving area and developing new services for our customers,” said Driscoll. “The combination should be positive for everyone who relies on the port for their business or their job.”

The roadmap forecasts record volume of more than 2.4 million cargo containers in 2018. The current record is 2.39 million set three years ago.

The Port predicted that ships arriving here would be 35% larger within 15 years. They’ll carry up to 18,000 containers, reducing the number of vessels needed in Oakland, which should mitigate the environmental impact of cargo growth. Fewer ships mean fewer diesel exhaust emissions.

The port also said its new logistics developments will rise near rail lines to reduce the reliance on trucks.

Powell SlaughterPowell Slaughter | Senior Editor

I'm Powell Slaughter, senior editor at Furniture/Today. I returned to the publication in January 2015 after nine years of writing about furniture retail strategies and best practices at a monthly magazine focusing on home furnishings retail operations. Prior to that, I spent 10 years with F/T covering wood furniture, the last five of those as case goods editor. While I cover occasional, home entertainment and home office here, a major responsibility is expanding our attention to the logistics side of the industry. I hope my articles will encourage a dialogue with retailers, vendors, third-party logistics specialists and carriers. I’d love to hear your ideas, concerns and suggestions for smoother flow of material and goods.

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