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Port of Oakland Backlog Expected to Ease

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- A big change is coming to San Francisco Bay. It will now be less of a parking lot. Ships waiting to dock at the port of Oakland will now start staging 50 miles offshore. The goal is to move traffic and air pollution away from the Bay, but supply chain issues won't be leaving with them.

"The system went into place on Monday," says Bryan Brandes, Maritime Director for the Port of Oakland. "We should start to see the effects really by next week."

Once those last anchored ships use the port, the Bay will clear, even as it gets busier.

"We're not only have more traffic coming in and out of the port, but the vessels are larger," Brandes says. "Vessels are larger and they've been doing more moves per vessel than they were in the past."

"We still have the basic problem of; There are far more imports coming in than the infrastructure we have set up to handle it," explains Professor Robert Leachman, a supply chain expert at UC Berkeley.

Like the much larger ports in Southern California, Oakland is just one link in the chain, it can only carry so much weight, and once congestion starts, it's hard to dig out of all those containers.

"As you think about it, as the place gets busier and busier, the containers get stacked higher and higher, then per move out there's much more work to be done," Leachman says. "So it's not linear. The amount of work and congestion grows exponentially."

That means the product waits and empty shelves may be here indefinitely - or as long as the ability to move all of this stuff is outmatched by the public demand for it.

"The big variable in this is will consumer spending slow down," Leachman says. "It's like asking will the pandemic slow down. If people start spending more on entertainment and travel, instead of on goods."

"And then all your e-commerce, everything that you would normally go down to a department store, you're all getting online now," Brandes adds of the manpower challenges. "That has shifted the whole supply chain, the last mile supply chain."

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