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Port of Oakland import volume hit a new record in 2021

Oakland, Calif. Containerized, loaded import cargo volume hit a new record at the Port of Oakland in 2021. The Port today reported that it handled the equivalent of 1.05 million 20-foot import containers in 2021. That was the most in Oakland’s 94-year history and 6 percent 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 percent year-over-year because of the disruptions. The Port handled a total of 2.4 million twenty-foot containers in 2021.

Senior Management Team and Staff | Port of Oakland, California

“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.”

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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:

  • Voyage cancellations reduce the number of ships able to move exports overseas;

  • A cargo container shortage for exports.

Port of Oakland - Wikipedia

One number in the Port’s year-end cargo report underscored the dichotomy in supply chain impact. Oakland reported that 55 percent of its 2021 cargo loads were imported; only 45 percent were exported. 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 of this year. According to the Port, more vessel calls would mean greater opportunities for exporters to reach overseas markets.

About the Port of Oakland

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The Port of Oakland oversees the Oakland Seaport, Oakland International Airport, and nearly 20 miles of waterfront including Jack London Square. The Port’s 5-year strategic plan – Growth with Care – pairs business expansion with community benefits, envisioning more jobs and economic stimulus as the Port grows. Together with its business partners, the Port supports more than 84,000 jobs.

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