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Port of Oakland Signals Export Cargo Push

Port opens 'pop up' container yard to improve the flow of agriculture exports

2 Lisa Selfie December 2020 Headshot
Photo source: Port of Oakland
Photo source: Port of Oakland

Port of Oakland executives say they anticipate a recovery in sagging export volumes. Farmers, truckers and trade officials hope the port’s right.

In January, the port launched an interagency effort to improve the flow of agriculture exports.

The program involved the use of additional yard space and equipment, restored export ship calls and assistance to export users.

The goal was to provide relief to agricultural exporters who are facing shortages of export capacity and skyrocketing logistics costs.

On March 1, the port opened its ‘pop-up’ 25-acre off-terminal, paved container yard equipped to move containers off chassis and store them for rapid pick-up.

Hundreds whose livelihood depends on U.S. exports gathered recently to hear the port’s remedy for their ailing industry.

Here’s what they heard:

  • The pop-up container yard can help relieve supply chain congestion
  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide incentives to exporters to maximize container yard use
  • Oakland anticipates more vessel space in 2022 to ship goods abroad
  • The port and federal government are working to provide enough containers to carry the load
  • The result could be restoration of export volume growth in Oakland before year end

“We’re historically the leading gateway to Asia for U.S. exports – especially agricultural exports,” said Bryan Brandes, Port of Oakland Maritime Director.

“It’s up to us to make sure that the gateway is wide open and that’s what we’ll be focused on throughout 2022.”

Recovery for containerized exports can’t come soon enough. Oakland’s export volume dropped 10.8% in 2021. It was off 10.8% again last month. The reasons: too few ships and not enough containers to meet demand.

According to the port, the fix is twofold:

1) More ship calls in 2022 following vessel bypasses in 2021 caused by global supply chain meltdowns

2) An innovative partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), CDFA, GO-Biz, and CalSTA

Pop-up yard

The temporary pop-up yard opened March 1 and is devoted to helping export shipments.

The yard would make empty cargo containers available to load export cargo to waiting ships. Truck drivers would be able to pick up boxes without navigating busy Oakland marine terminals.

Andrew Hwang, manager, business development and international marketing, says the yard will be open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

“This yard will essentially allow importers to be able to return empties and not have to hold on to them when there is congestion at the ocean terminals,” explained Hwang. “This should allow importers to reduce the amount of detention and chassis charges they are paying.

“We're hoping there's much faster truck turn times and a lot more flexibility,” he said.

The USDA said it would provide cash incentives to exporters and truckers using the service. According to the port, hundreds have expressed interest.

Federal partnership underscores Oakland’s importance to the multi-billion-dollar U.S. ag-export industry, the port said.

Oakland is the natural jumping-off point for farm goods produced in California’s Central Valley. It has also become a magnet for beef and pork exports produced in the Midwest.

The Port said demand – especially in Asia – for U.S. farm exports is at an all-time high. It said a turnaround in export business is possible by the time harvests are ready to ship this fall.

“The overseas market is waiting for us,” says Brandes. “With the interest I see from the export community and support from the U.S. government, I see no reason why we can’t meet the demand and restore this business before year-end.”

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