Ports & Terminals

Port of Oakland plans for mega-ships

The Port of Oakland is investing in new infrastructure, including mega ship to shore cranes to load and unload 18,000 teu (20-foot container unit) container ships that it expects will be arriving at California ports within the next 2-5 years.

In an interview with AJOT, Port of Oakland Maritime Director, John Driscoll, said that the Port has created an incentive program for Stevedoring Services of America (SSA) to order new mega cranes that have the height to service mega-container ships at the Oakland International Container Terminal (OITC): “It we can’t handle those ships, they won’t come.”

Driscoll said that OITC is the Port’s biggest container terminal and so the berthing of the bigger ships must be able to work there. Right now, he says the biggest ships that can be serviced at the Port have a 14,000 teu capacity and are about 1,200 feet long.

John Driscoll, Marine Director Port of Oakland
John Driscoll, Marine Director Port of Oakland

The Port is also researching the possibility of widening the turning basin adjoining OITC to provide sufficient width in the Oakland Estuary for the big ships to turn around and berth:

“We forecast that these 18,000 teu ships will be coming in within two to five years. Right now, the turning basis isn’t big enough. These are1,300-foot-long ships and they cannot turn around…So, we are engaging with the Army Corps of Engineers and doing some simulations as to what the next step is… The best step might be to widen the turning basin. If that is the case, the permit process could take from 5-10 years and so we need to get started now” to fast-track permit processing.

In terms of the acquisition of the new mega container cranes, Driscoll says the cost of acquiring the cranes is “all on” SSA, but the Port is going to provide a discount in its fee structure to help the company afford this huge investment.

The plan is for SSA to order six new cranes. The company will probably order the cranes from ZPMC in China, which builds cranes for terminals around the world.

Oakland International Container Terminal provides stevedoring services for 22 shipping lines serving Asia, Europe and Central America. The terminal handles approximately 100 vessel calls each month, discharging and loading predominantly containerized cargo.

In other news, Driscoll told 170 guests at Oakland’s annual ‘State of the Port’ on January 16th: “The container shipping sector starts the year with uncertainty due to global trade conflicts…. Nevertheless, the Port of Oakland remains committed to a growth strategy that provides efficient cargo movement for shippers, jobs for our neighbors and economic stimulus for Oakland.”

Driscoll pointed out that Oakland’s containerized cargo volume reached an all-time high of 2.55 million teus in 2018. It was the second consecutive year of record volume at the Port. Volume in 2018 was 5.2 percent higher than the total in 2017. Import volume increased 5 percent while exports declined 3.5 percent. Oakland saw a 19.7 percent increase in the transport of empty containers being repositioned for future import use.

Drsicoll drew a loud round of applause from the audience when he praised federal employees who have continued to work at the Port and the Oakland Airport. He cited employees working for U.S. Coast Guard, US Customs and Border Protection and the Transport Security Administration: “These individuals are coming to work keeping our Port and Airport open despite not receiving their paychecks” as a result of the federal government shut down: “I think they deserve a lot of credit.”

Stas Margaronis
Stas Margaronis


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