Port of Oakland Clears Logjam

A vessel backlog restricting containerized trade at the Port of Oakland since January has been cleared, the port said on Thursday adding that there are no vessels in San Francisco Bay or outside the Golden Gate awaiting berths.

Port officials said that it’s the strongest evidence yet that a West Coast cargo slowdown is on the wane here. As recently as last month, up to 20 vessels a day were lined up waiting to dock.

When a ship comes to Oakland, it goes straight to berth and we go straight to work loading and unloading,” said Port Maritime Director John Driscoll. “No more delays: that’s the message we’re sending to our customers and the shipping lines that carry their cargo.”

Ports from Seattle to San Diego have coped with a backlog of ships and cargo since late 2014. That was the consequence of a nine-month impasse in negotiating a new waterfront labor contract. Oakland has been recovering from the cargo buildup since a tentative contract settlement was reached Feb. 20.

Port officials said most ships are in-and-out of Oakland within two days. That’s a significant improvement from recent months when vessel calls could last 4-to-5 days. Cargo owners are receiving containerized imports shortly after the boxes are discharged from vessels, the Port said. Until recently, customers could wait weeks for shipments.

Though the Port has caught up with the cargo backlog, it warned that temporary buildups could recur. The reason: Up to 10 ships remain anchored at severely congested Southern California ports awaiting berths. As that logjam breaks, the vessels will likely arrive off-schedule and in bunches at Oakland, their next stop, the port further added.

Furthermore, the port reported heavy truck traffic this week at some terminal entrances as drivers attempted to pick up cargo. The port said the backup was expected following closures at several terminals Tuesday for Cesar Chavez Day, honoring the late labor activist.

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