A strong economy and unexpected trade dynamics led to record 2018 containerized cargo volume at the Port of Oakland. The question now: can it last?
The Port reached an all-time high, handling the equivalent of 2.55 million 20-foot cargo containers. It traced the increase to consumer spending powered by the humming U.S. economy. But another factor was at play: the U.S.-China trade war. Economists and shipping experts said importers rushed cargo into the U.S. to get ahead of escalating tariffs. As a result, Oakland’s 2018 import volume increased 5 percent compared to 2017. Export volume declined 3.5 percent in 2018 while transport of empty containers increased 19.7 percent.
Analysts question whether U.S. ports will extend last year’s volume gains in 2019. With the trade picture clouded amid concerns about a slowing global economy, cargo growth projections are muted.
The Port of Oakland, sees growth opportunities resulting from recent investments. For instance, a $90 million refrigerated distribution center that opened last November is expected to increase exports. The Port’s 5-year strategic plan envisions record volume of 2.6 million 20-foot containers by 2022.