Port of Oakland wary over trade war after record 2018

Date: Monday, January 21, 2019
Source: American Shipper

The port handled a record amount of container volumes in 2018, but the outlook for the coming year is uncertain, according to the port’s maritime director.

The port handled 2.55 million TEUs in 2018, up 5.2 percent from the 2.42 million TEUs that moved through the port in 2017. Import volumes rose 5 percent year-over-year, while export volumes slipped 3.5 percent. Movement of empty containers out of the port were up 19.7 percent.


Driscoll said the growth in imports reflected not only the strong U.S. economy, but also the fact that some products were imported in advance of higher tariffs that were expected to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. The White House, however, postponed the increase in tariffs on goods from China with an annual import value of $200 million from 10 percent to 25 percent until March 1, while trade talks between the world's two largest economies continue.

At the same time, exports were hurt by the strong U.S. dollar, and some exports have been impacted by Chinese tariffs.

Driscoll noted how the port has aging and expensive infrastructure.

However, in March 2018, the port unveiled a five-year plan called “Growth with Care,” which calls for continued growth and investment at the seaport, Oakland International Airport, and at commercial properties, including Jack London Square in downtown Oakland.


Driscoll yesterday highlighted several projects including:
   • The start of construction of CenterPoint Properties’ 460,000-square-foot distribution center at the seaport that is expected to open in the first quarter of 2020;

   • New cranes at Oakland International Container Terminal, which is operated by Stevedoring Services of America and handles about 61 percent of the port’s cargo (Four cranes were raised 27 feet at the terminal last year so that larger ships could be worked, and the port is planning to add six new large cranes in coming years. SSA will pay for the cranes but will get a 1.1 percent rent discount for each one they install).
   • Doubling of the footprint of the second largest terminal at the port, operated by TraPac, which spent $67 million to increase the size of its footprint to 123 acres by taking over part of the Outer Harbor terminal formerly operated by Port America and MSC, giving TraPac three instead of two berths and additional reefer capacity;
   • The opening of the 280,000-square-foot Lineage Cool Port Oakland facility in November 2018 for shipping frozen and chilled cargo;
   • And Oakland Portal, a website that began operating in May that provides information such as vessel schedules, cargo status, and live camera views of all of the port’s terminals, with Driscoll adding how the port plans to provide data on truck turn times through the portal.

Driscoll applauded federal workers from the Transportation Security Administration, Coast Guard, and Customs and Border Protection who have continued to work despite the government slowdown, saying that they have kept the port and airport operating normally.


The port has been discussing the possibility that the Oakland Athletics might build a new ballpark adjacent to the port’s marine terminals since last April.

In response to a question from the audience, Driscoll said the port would be mindful of the impact traffic from baseball fans might have on trucks moving cargo to and from the port.



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