With the start of the Lunar New Year approaching this week, West Coast ports are focused on restored trade relations with China and hope for cargo volumes to reflect a more stable relationship.
The Port of Oakland – which stages its “6th Annual State of the Port” address on January 29 – reports that its 2019 container volume decreased 1.8 percent from 2018, Maritime division spokesmen attributed this dip to fewer empty containers, but noted that loaded import and export containers were at a record high.
Oakland handled the equivalent of 2.5 million 20-foot containers (TEUs) in 2019 versus 2.55 million in 2018, with spokesmen adding that the decline was due to a 13 percent drop in empty container handling.
On the other hand, export volume increased 3.7 percent last year, the Port said. Imports were up 1 percent. As a result, the port set a record for loaded containers in 2019 with 1.9 million TEUs. The port broke a 2018 record of 1.86 million loaded TEUs. The Port said the results were promising given a China-U.S. tariff standoff that dampened global trade in 2019.
“We’re encouraged that our loaded imports and exports set annual records,” said Port of Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll. “We are looking to improve on this cargo performance in the coming year, especially if the U.S. and China can continue to break down trade barriers.”
Oakland’s communications director, Mike Zampa, observed thatexport volume growth was driven by continued demand for U.S. agricultural products.
“Shippers are increasingly finding markets outside China to grow their businesses, he added.
Continued strong U.S. consumer spending kept import volume growing despite tariffs on Chinese goods, the port said. It added that “Northern California’s vibrant economy” contributed to the rise of imports.
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