Container imports at the Port of Oakland declined by 12% year-on-year in January 2021 as a result of spreading supply chain congestion.
Exports, in particular, were down 11% and the port attributed the cargo declines to several factors that included late-arriving ships from southern California as up to 60 vessels at anchor waited for berth space.
Bryan Brandes, maritime director at Port of Oakland, said: “There’s a lot of cargo trapped on ships just waiting to get here after departing Southern California. Our concern is getting shipments to our customers as quickly as we can.”
The congestion in Southern California has called delays of up to a week for Oakland vessel arrivals and, as a result, ships have reached the port off-schedule and on occasion miss berthing appointments.
There was also a temporary loss of berth capacity at the port’s largest terminal when new cranes were being assembled and dwindling vessel space for Oakland exports as ships carried more empty containers back to Asia.
According to the port, the declining cargo is an anomaly at a time when US importers face increasing consumer demand.
Though imports and exports declined by double digits in January, the port’s overall container volume was down by 6% because of a 16% increase in the shipment of empty containers.
Empty containers are in high demand at Asian ports as they are needed to transport US import cargo.
As vessel logjams start to ease in the coming months, the port expects container volume will increase while US containerised import volume from Asia is expected to remain strong at least through June.
In February, CMA CGM launched its first direct service from China to Oakland with the arrival of AFRICA FOUR at the port.
Brandes said: “This opens up so many possibilities. Our customers can significantly improve the transit time for getting their products to consumers with a first-call and also use Oakland to reach the US interior through our rail connections.”
Oakland will become the first US stop for ships in the new weekly Golden Gate Bridge service, with ships in the service to sail straight from Asia to the Port of Oakland.
It marks the first time Oakland has offered a first-call service to US importers in over a decade and connects the ports of Shanghai, Yantian and Kaohsiung in China to Oakland.
Ed Aldridge, president of CMA CGM America and APL North America, said: “The CMA CGM group is pleased to introduce this Golden Gate Bridge service as we seek new ways to provide our customers with differentiated services, fast transit times and efficient access to their inland destinations.
“We look forward to working closely with the Port of Oakland to help customers increase their speed to market and infuse more consistency into their supply chains.”
A first-call service is expected to increase rail cargo shipments from Oakland as imports destined for interior destinations such as Chicago or Memphis are usually discharged on the West Coast and shipped by rail.