Driscoll: Port of Oakland Committed to Growth Despite Trade Wars

The Port of Oakland remains committed to a growth strategy in 2019 despite prevailing uncertainty in the container shipping sector caused by the ongoing global trade tensions between China and the United States, according to the port’s Maritime Director John Driscoll.

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Speaking at Oakland’s annual State of the Port address, Driscoll acknowledged that the ongoing U.S.-China trade war clouds the 2019 freight picture.

Nevertheless, he added that the port continues to aggressively implement a 5-year strategy called Growth with Care. The strategy calls for growth across the Port of Oakland’s three business lines: aviation, commercial real estate and maritime.

Driscoll added that the port made significant progress in implementing its year-old strategy during 2018. The highlights included opening of the Lineage Cool Port Oakland, a 280,000-square foot, temperature-controlled facility for shipping chilled or frozen cargo; preliminary work on a 460,000-square foot distribution center that would anchor a Seaport Logistics Complex; and completion of the project that doubled the size of Oakland’s TraPac marine terminal.

Related: Larger Ships to Be Port of Oakland’s New Normal

As the port took steps to expand its business, it simultaneously addressed the impact on communities, Driscoll said.  He pointed to a jobs agreement that would ensure local hiring when the Seaport Logistics Complex opens in 2020.

The new plans would soon be finalized to minimize the impact of containerized freight hauling in neighboring communities. One would further curb exhaust emissions from diesel-powered equipment operating at the port, while the other would manage truck traffic, he added.

“We’ve worked closely with the community to make sure we properly manage growth at the Port,” Driscoll said.  “We’ve heard the concerns of our neighbors, and we’re working to address them.”

Furthermore, the port has made increased shore power use a centerpiece of its emission reduction efforts.  According to the most recent data, shore power reduced Oakland diesel particulate emissions 56 percent in 2017.  Greenhouse gas emissions declined 28 percent.

Oakland’s containerized cargo volume reached an all-time high of 2.55 million 20-foot containers in 2018. It was the second consecutive year of record volume at the port. Volume in 2018 was 5.2 percent higher than the total in 2017. Import volume increased 5 percent while exports declined 3.5 percent.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) of the United States predicts that there will be a slowdown in cargo volumes at the nation’s retail ports in the coming months due to the tensions and an overall weakness in imports for the first half of the year. NRF expressed hope the talks currently under way will bring an end to this “ill-advised trade war.”

China and the US have agreed to put a break on the escalating trade war and shelve further tariff increases that were planned to enter into force in January 2019.

At a meeting in December 2018, Trump agreed to leave the tariffs on USD 200 billion worth of product at the 10% rate, and not raise it to 25% at this time, as the delegations of the two countries negotiate the terms of their trade during a 90-day tariff truce.