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COVID Recovery: Record Surge In Cargo At Port Of Oakland In March; 'Ships Are Full'

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- International cargo traffic at the Port of Oakland surged to record levels in March as the economy begins to rebound from its COVID-19 slumber.

Port of Oakland Maritime Director Bryan Brandes said he does not see the surge in traffic ending 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," Brandes said in a news release. "We just don't see conditions easing in the next several months."

Port officials said Oakland received the equivalent of 97,538 20-foot import containers in March. Official said the port -- a shipping gateway of produce from the Central Valley -- shipped out the equivalent of 94,169 20-foot export boxes. Both totals were single-month records in 94-year-old port's history.

March imports were up 45 percent from the same month a year ago when the port felt the initial impacts of the pandemic. Exports gained 12 percent year-over-year with most of the trade with Asia.

Oakland's cargo boom mirrors a nearly year-long volume increase at many ports worldwide. Port officials said the total volume was up nearly 9 percent through the first three months of 2021.

Officials 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
  • American exporters meeting unrelenting demand for high-quality U.S. products, especially farm goods.


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