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American Shipper

Port of Oakland strives to become first port of call from Asia

Port of Oakland Executive Director Chris Lytle said all transpacific services currently calling the port hit Los Angeles or Long Beach first, resulting in more imports being discharged at those ports instead of Oakland.

   The Port of Oakland is working to become the first port of call for some cargo ships traveling from Asia, Chris Lytle, the port’s executive director revealed Tuesday during his annual state of the port speech.
   Being the first call would drive up the Port of Oakland’s import volumes, since the first call in the U.S. is where most imports are discharged, he said.
   “Right now, we have about 28 transpacific strings of vessels that call Oakland. All 28 make a first stop in LA or Long Beach – that’s not good for us,” Lytle told an audience of about 300 during his speech. “We have customers here, import customers, that want to have some of those vessels call Oakland first.
   “It’s tough, because as you can imagine, it’s not just about one carrier, it’s about the carrier alliance that has to all agree, and it’s very complicated. But we want to do it, we can do it, and I think we’ll be successful in that,” he said.
   “In fact, we were over in Asia three or four months ago, and we had three of the vessel alliances approach us about it – and that’s actually music to our ears,” he said. “It’s different to have that, then to have me go ask the carriers ‘will you please put a first call in my port?’
   “We’re still working on it,” he added.
   Lytle’s speech came during a luncheon held at a restaurant near the port. The event was organized by the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association and Women in Logistics, a Bay Area nonprofit that promotes career growth through networking and education.
   Looking back at 2017, the Port of Oakland set a cargo volumes record, handling the equivalent of 2.42 million TEUs, which broke the previous record of 2.39 million containers set in 2014. Import growth was the key driver for the record performance, the port said, as imports rose 4 percent in 2017 over 2016 totals.
   Looking ahead, Oakland is forecasting new volume records annually through 2022.
   “I think by almost any measure that you can have, any financial measure, it’s really been a great year this past year for the port,” Lytle remarked. “Record revenues, record volumes, net income is up about 21 percent… there’s a lot of very positive things.”
   The port saw an increase in operating revenues in 2017, while expenses were maintained and held down, which resulted in higher operating income, Lytle explained.
   Also during his roughly 20-minute speech, Lytle revealed the port made progress in its environmental initiatives, although there is still more work to do.
   “I’m not going to give you a bunch of statistics, but in terms of diesel particulate matter from trucks, that number since 2005 is down 98 percent. In terms of overall diesel particulates from all sources, including vessels, the number is 76 percent down,” he said. “While that sounds really good, our goal by 2020 is to have 85 percent diesel particulates down, not 76 percent. So we still have a ways to go, we’ve got two more years to do that.
   “What the (harbor) board has asked me to do” Lytle said, “is to sit down with our staff to work together to put together an update to our (maritime air quality improvement) program that will take us beyond 2020 and 2030 and so on, and continue to raise the bar, work with the industry, work with the community, and develop a program.”
   A first draft of the update should arrive by July, he said.
   Another document due to arrive this year is a new, five-year strategic plan.
   The five-year plan is currently in the hands of the board of port commissioners for review, Lytle said.

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