Cargo volume is up again at the Port of Oakland in 2019, but for how long? That's the question Maritime Director John Driscoll posed this week to 50 trade executives assembled here.
Mr. Driscoll warned the Port's Efficiency Task Force that tariffs are squeezing customers who ship through his port. Fallout from an ongoing U.S.-China trade war could include reductions in containerized cargo volume, he indicated.
"Our customers are impacted by tariffs," Mr. Driscoll told leaders from shipping, trucking, retailing and labor who convene quarterly to advise the Port on operational policy. "We're hoping we can get through this period because we believe the future can be bright."
Mr. Driscoll said 2019 Oakland cargo volume is up 4.6 percent from record volume in 2018. He pointed out, however, that China accounts for roughly 38 percent of Oakland's business. The inference: tariff increases on U.S.-China trade could stymie further growth.
The Port handled the equivalent of 2.37 million 20-foot cargo containers in 2016, Mr. Driscoll said. The number edged up to 2.42 million containers in 2017 and 2.55 million last year. The Maritime Director characterized the increases as steady, manageable growth. The increase in volume this year is a pleasant surprise, he admitted.
"We thought our numbers would go down because of the trade war," Mr. Driscoll explained. "It could still happen, but it hasn't so far."
The Port executive said that threatened Trump Administration tariffs against Mexico would have negligible impact in Oakland. The Port does little business there, he explained.
The Port of Oakland is expected to release its cargo volume statistics next week for the month of May.