Port of Oakland containerized import volume jumped 7.3 percent last month over January 2019 totals, according to data released today. Exports were up, too, the Port said, lifting hopes for recovery from a U.S.-China trade war. One question remained, however: would concern over the fast-spreading coronavirus dampen trade growth?
"It's possible," said Port of Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll. "The uptick in January was encouraging but we're hearing from shipping lines that cargo volume could moderate over the next few months."
Oakland's year-over-year import volume increase in January followed three straight months of decline, the Port said. Exports rose 3.3 percent in January, up for the fourth straight month. The Port said consumer demand—both in the U.S. and Asia—spurred cargo volume increases.
The Port's results followed a January trade agreement signaling a break in the U.S. tariff skirmish with China. The agreement included a commitment by Beijing to increase purchases of U.S. farm goods. That was good news for California and Midwest agricultural exporters who use Oakland's port as their gateway to Asia. But the coronavirus outbreak that initiated in China blurs the trade outlook.
Quarantines and other emergency measures have slowed Chinese manufacturing output, according to reports. As a result, shipping lines are canceling some springtime voyages to the U.S. The Port said it could take several months to determine the impact of the contagion on global supply chains.
The Port reported that its total January cargo volume—including imports, exports and empty container repositioning—declined 0.6 percent. It said that it handled 17.7 percent fewer empties in January than in the same period last year.