Oakland sees unexpected import jump as retailers anticipate freight rate hike

Aerial view of containers and container ships in the Oakland port. Ships docked in the Oakland Estuary on a sunny day. Contaners as far as the eye can see.

The Port of Oakland has reported a 1.9% year-on-year (YoY) increase in imports despite the COVID-19 pandemic leading to 10% increase in blank sailings.

In a statement, the port said the increase was “unexpected” but attributed it to retailers accelerating shipments to the US in anticipation of a drop in cargo capacity and increase in freight rates.

Oakland’s overall container volume – which includes imports, exports and empty containers – declined 2.3% in YoY June from 2019 totals. The port handled the equivalent of 199,011 TEU in June 2020 compared to 203,730 a year ago.

The port said the cargo decrease resulted from a coronavirus pandemic that “continues to dampen global trade”. 

According to the port, June export volume declined 5.7%, a trend which is likely to continue as consumer demand in foreign markets falls even further.

As one of the main gateways for US-China trade, Oakland has suffered tremendously since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as has its fellow West Coast ports Los Angeles and Long Beach.

In May 2019 it saw its TEU traffic fall by 12.7% and subsequently has had to cut its 2020/2021 to cope with the fallout from the pandemic.

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