Port of Oakland expects drop in containerised volume

The Port of Oakland has announced that it is expecting a drop in containerised cargo volume during the second quarter of this year.

In a video conference, Oakland Maritime officials told freight haulers that twenty May and June voyages to Oakland have been scrubbed and fewer container ships would likely mean less cargo at the Port of Oakland this spring.

“It’s a clouded picture,” said Port of Oakland Business Development Manager Andrew Hwang.  “About 10 percent of our scheduled vessel arrivals have been cancelled by shipping lines, but we don’t know if that will translate into a similar drop in volume.”

The Port blamed vessel cancelations on the coronavirus pandemic which has stunted global trade.  With consumer spending down, there’s less merchandise to load onto ships.  That means fewer vessels needed between Asian manufacturing centres and US ports.  Import volume is expected to suffer the biggest cargo decline in coming months, the Port said.

Demand for Oakland exports remains strong, but voyage cancelations could place some markets beyond reach, the Port explained.  Fruit, nut and meat exports are particularly coveted by overseas trading partners, especially in Asia, the Port said.  It added that Oakland exports to South Korea increased 31 percent last month, and to Japan,18 percent.

The Port cautioned, however, that the coronavirus pandemic could permanently alter container transportation practices.  Shipping lines may consolidate more cargo on bigger ships while reducing the frequency of voyages, the Port said.

Supply chains could be altered, too, the Port said.  For example, the online purchasing explosion prompted by shelter-in-place orders may hasten distribution centre reconfiguration or consolidation.  Distribution hubs could be relocated to more central locations to serve population centres from fewer outlets.    

“We’ll be facing a new normal,” said Mr. Hwang.  “Distribution patterns will change…it won’t be like it was.

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