2021 container numbers slump at Port of Oakland

Vessels and cranes at the Port of Oakland container terminal in Oakland, California.

Total container numbers at the Port of Oakland have fallen for the third consecutive year.

The Californian port reported totals of 2,448,243 TEU for 2021, down from 2,461.262 in 2020 and record 2018 levels of 2,546,399 TEU.

In contrast, containerised loaded import cargo volume hit a new record at the port for the year.

Oakland reported that it handled the equivalent of 1,055,614 TEU import containers in 2021. That was the most in Oakland’s 94-year history and 6 per cent above 2020 totals.

Record import volume was achieved despite supply chain misery that plagued ports worldwide, the port wrote in its announcement.

Late-arriving ships, cancelled voyages and weeks-long delays at some ports hampered freight movement.

Consequently, Oakland’s 2021 export volume declined 8 per cent year-over-year because of the disruptions.

Port of Oakland Maritime Director Bryan Brandes said: “We’re gratified that our import business remained strong. Our emphasis now is on overcoming supply chain challenges that have hurt our export customers.”

The port said unprecedented US consumer spending drove last year’s import surge. Shipping lines devote more energy and resources to imports because they’re better paying.

Oakland reported that 55 per cent of its 2021 cargo loads were imports; only 45 per cent were exports. Historically, Oakland’s business split 50/50.

The Port predicted more disruption in 2022 as trade growth continues to outpace supply chain capacity.

The port will implement a queueing system for arriving ships; and an exclusive empty container yard for exporters.

Oakland said it’s collaborating with shipping lines to restore vessel services suspended in 2021.

Some carriers skipped Oakland because of crippling delays at Southern California ports, the port explained. PTI spoke to Oakland in October on Oakland’s capacity as an alternative cargo destination to congested Los Angeles/Long Beach ports.

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