Port of Oakland breaks import record, again

It’s the same old story over at the Port of Oakland. January imports broke another record, with containerized import volumes increasing 9 percent last month over January 2018 totals.

Shippers are trying to get ahead of tariffs, and retailers are stocking up ahead of the annual New Year factory shutdowns in Asia.

The surge continues a trajectory that has existed for months. January marked six consecutive months of increasing imports in Oakland. Year-over-year volume increased nearly 11 percent last December and 15 percent in November.

“We’re happy with the same old story,” said Port spokesperson Mike Zampa.

Zampa said one factor in particular gets overlooked as a driver of import volumes.

While U.S. consumer spending has underpinned import trade for a long time, that narrative could change. Retail revenues plummeted in December, and if that continues, imports could decline.

But for now, the Port of Oakland, like other West Coast ports, is riding high on the import wave: the port handled the equivalent of 81,895 20-foot import containers last month, the busiest January for imports in its history.

There’s also some new movement in exports.

Oakland’s January export volume rose 0.6 percent compared to last year. Total container volume – imports, exports and empty containers, increased 3.2 percent, year-over-year.

“We were surprised,” Zampa said. “Exports have been on the decline for the most part in 2018,” he said.

But it’s soon to draw any conclusions from the fractional uptick.

“Let’s say we’re off to an ok start,” Zampa said.

Show More

Linda Baker, Staff Writer

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves staff reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes early-stage VC, freight-tech, mobility and West Coast emissions regulations.