Cargo volume at the Port of Oakland is set to hit a third straight record year, but it's unclear whether or not the momentum will continue into 2019, port officials said in early November.
Although the strong U.S. economy and seasonal demand heading into the holidays helped drive growth through October, officials said shippers are accelerating orders to avoid the impact of tariffs on Chinese imports set to take effect in January, a factor that may hinder volume early in the New Year.
"Imports are a good story, but the reason for the growth is still something of a mystery," Port of Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll said in a statement following the quarterly meeting of the Port Efficiency Task Force this month. "We suspect frontloading is part of the answer."
Some task force members predicted declining container volume in January, while others said volumes should continue to climb until then.
"We're peaking," a West Coast freight forwarder added, "but it may not go on much longer."
Oakland's port volume is up 2.7 percent over 2017, which was a record year for containerized cargo at the port, officials said, adding that Chinese imports have increased 5 percent this year. The port's exports to China have fallen 33 percent in 2018, officials said, due largely to China's tough new restrictions on wastepaper shipments.
Other Asian nations are picking up the slack as China exports decline, however, with exports to Vietnams rising 96 percent and exports to Taiwan rising 37 percent in September, officials said.