Imports up a whopping 45 percent, no sign global trade is ending

An international trade boom is exploding at the Port of Oakland. The Port today reported all-time high container volume for import and export cargo in the month of March. It said there’s no sign of the global surge in business activity abating any time soon.

“Ships are full, ocean freight rates are sky high and the need for empty containers to ship more cargo is never-ending,” declared Port of Oakland Maritime Director Bryan Brandes. “We just don’t see conditions easing in the next several months.”

The Port said Oakland received the equivalent of 97,538 20-foot import containers in March. It said it shipped out the equivalent of 94,169 20-foot export boxes. Both totals were single-month records at the 94-year-old Port. March imports were up 45 percent from the same month a year ago, the Port said. March 2020 was when the Port felt the initial impacts of the pandemic. Exports gained 12 percent year-over-year. The Port said most of its trade was with Asia.

Oakland’s cargo boom mirrors a nearly year-long volume increase at many ports worldwide. The Port said its total volume is up nearly 9 percent through the first three months of 2021. It attributed the gains to three factors:

  • Pandemic-weary consumers purchasing overseas goods to counter lockdown fatigue, a phenomenon known as ‘retail therapy;’
  • Retailers and manufacturers replenishing depleted inventories; and
  • American exporters meeting unrelenting demand for high-quality U.S. products, especially farm goods.

The Port said it was aided in March by introduction of a first-call vessel service. The new weekly service from French carrier CMA-CGM makes Oakland its first U.S. stop.

Oakland’s March export performance was particularly noteworthy, the Port said. It followed two months of export volume decline blamed on a dearth of vessel space to transport containers. The Port is a major export gateway because of its proximity to California’s Central Valley.