Imports jumped by 26% in May at the Port of Oakland, although the spike in volumes is creating immense operational challenges for marine terminals and ocean carriers.
The port handled 1.08m teu between January and May, representing a record high, with exports up by 7%.
Driven by consumer demand, US imports passing through Oakland have increased by 20% this year, largely originating from China or neighbouring Asian countries.
The surging trade has continued to create a vessel backlog in Oakland, with ships sometimes waiting days at anchor in San Francisco Bay due to berth crowding.
As of June 11, there were 15 vessels at anchor or drifting in the San Francisco Bay area, which surpasses the 14 ships awaiting berths at the San Pedro Bay port complex.
According to the port, congestion should begin to ease by the autumn because more dockworkers are expected to be hired and fully trained in the coming weeks.
Port of Oakland maritime director Bryan Brandes said: “We’re in unchartered waters; record cargo volume coming through US West Coast ports and a pandemic issue at a port in China are creating vessel congestion in both regions.”
Meanwhile, export volumes between January and May are down 1% at Oakland, partly due to a shortage of containers and space on Asia-bound ships early this year.
According to the port, soaring rates and supply/demand imbalance foreshadow a continued import surge in Oakland and uncertainty for the beneficial cargo owners.
Brandes added: “These are trying times for our tenants and customers, basically everyone involved in the supply chain.”