Port of Oakland Reports Record Imports Volumes for 2021
Containerized, loaded import cargo volume hit a new record at the Port of Oakland in 2021. The port on Thursday reported that it handled the equivalent of 1.05 million 20-foot import containers in 2021, the most in Oakland’s 94-year history and 6% above 2020 totals.
Record import volume was achieved despite supply chain misery that plagued ports worldwide. Late-arriving ships, canceled voyages and weeks-long delays at some ports hampered freight movement. Oakland’s 2021 export volume declined 8% year-over-year because of the disruptions. The port handled a total of 2.4 million twenty-foot containers in 2021.
“We’re gratified that our import business remained strong,” said Port of Oakland Maritime Director Bryan Brandes. “Our emphasis now is on overcoming supply chain challenges that have hurt our export customers.”
The port said unprecedented U.S. consumer spending drove last year’s import surge. Shipping lines devote more energy and resources to imports because they’re better paying. The port blamed the drop in exports on supply chain challenges, including voyage cancellations reducing the number of ships able to move exports overseas, and a cargo container shortage for exports.
One number in the port’s year-end cargo report underscored the dichotomy in supply chain impact. Oakland reported that 55% of its 2021 cargo loads were imports; only 45% were exports. Historically, Oakland’s business split 50/50.
The port predicted more disruption in 2022 as trade growth continues to outpace supply chain capacity. Oakland responded with two announcements: 1) a queueing system for arriving ships; and 2) an exclusive empty container yard for exporters.
Oakland said it’s collaborating with shipping lines to restore vessel services suspended in 2021. Some carriers skipped Oakland because of crippling delays at Southern California ports, the port explained. Services began returning by the fourth quarter, the port said. It added that it’s lobbying to recoup the remainder this year. According to the port, more vessel calls would mean greater opportunity for exporters to reach overseas markets.