Port of Oakland Sees First Decrease in Import Volume Since February at With Light Peak-Season
Containerized import volume at the Port of Oakland declined last month for the first time since February. October import totals were down 3.3 percent compared to 2014.
The port attributed the decrease to lighter-than-usual peak-season activity. Autumn is usually the busy time in container shipping when retailers import goods for holiday store shelves. But ocean carriers are reporting lower demand for space on their ships.
The port said October export volume decreased 13.7 percent. Overall container volume—which includes imports, exports and empty containers—was off 6.9 percent. Before last month, Oakland had reported seven consecutive months of import gains dating back to last winter.
On a more positive note the Port of Oakland reported that the labor shortage which hampered port operations is over.
“There has been a lot of improvement at the Port over the last three-to-six months,” a major manufacturer told the Port Efficiency Task Force, a group of 30 shippers, ocean carriers, marine terminal operators and labor leaders. “But the pressure is on to make sure products flow.”
Hundreds of new dockworkers have joined the Oakland labor pool since July, task force members were told. As a result, vessels are being loaded and unloaded on schedule. Ships that bypassed Oakland due to the labor shortage are returning, and cargo is more readily available for delivery.
“The ships are working and we are seeing positive results,” said Jim Rice, General Manager of Oakland International Container Terminal, one of five marine terminals operating in Oakland.
The port said it will now concentrate on eliminating bottlenecks that delay cargo from reaching its final destination. “Nothing is more important than this,” said Executive Director Chris Lytle. “We’re making progress, but there are still problems.”
Terminal operators noted recent acceleration in moving containerized cargo out of the port. But some cargo owners said they still face delays in moving imports and exports through Oakland.
Among the initiatives being tended by the task force, the port expects to have a mobile application that gives harbor truckers wait times at marine terminals by January. Also in January, the Federal Maritime Commission is expected to respond to a plan for full Saturday operations in Oakland. It is anticipated that Saturday gates could open by March and should ease pressure on Monday-through Friday operations.
Major chassis-leasing companies are reviewing plans for a common pool of chassis to make it easier and faster for truckers to move in and out of terminals. The port expects the common pool to be up and running in the first quarter of next year.
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