July Was All About Oakland

The month of July saw a number of momentous events at the Port of Oakland, underlining the ocean cargo gateway’s progressive and enterprising spirit.

The Port of Oakland handles 99 percent of all containerized goods in Northern California and is the only major U.S. West Coast container port that handles more exports than imports. Photo by Joel Williams

By Patrick Burnson

Published: August, 2012

The month of July saw a number of momentous events at the Port of Oakland, underlining the ocean cargo gateway’s progressive and enterprising spirit. The third largest port in California also continued to help state shippers move exports key to our economic recovery.

First, the port welcomed U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and California Governor Jerry Brown to the Army Base redevelopment site to see where the port will be constructing the first phase of its rail project that received $15 million in federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant funding.

The $15 million is from the fourth round of the TIGER grant program (FY2012). "The Obama Administration is committed to making our ports the best in the world," said LaHood. "The Port of Oakland is already the leading export gateway on the West Coast and this TIGER grant will help boost rail access and capacity, which will contribute to the continued economic growth of the region."

The Outer Harbor Intermodal Terminal (OHIT) Rail Access project of the port will improve rail access to and from the port and expand Oakland’s rail capacity, leading to faster and cleaner goods movement in Northern California, while also providing vital rail access for the proposed Oakland Army Base redevelopment. These federal funds, along with additional local and state funding, will support this critical transportation project.

"This $15 million grant from the federal government boosts state and local efforts to create thousands of jobs by investing nearly $1.5 billion in Bay Area transportation projects. We’re not just rebuilding our infrastructure – we are also rebuilding our middle class," said Brown. "The Port of Oakland handles 99 percent of all containerized goods in Northern California and is the only major U.S. West Coast container port that handles more exports than imports."

Agriculture represents approximately 40 percent of the total value of exports through Oakland, which is the premier export seaport for California agricultural products from the wine country to the Central Valley.


California Exports See Rebound

Meanwhile, California’s export trade recovered from its April stumble and resumed a positive growth track in May, according to an analysis by Beacon Economics of foreign trade data released last month by the U.S. Commerce Department.

The value of goods shipped abroad by California businesses in May totaled $13.88 billion, a nominal increase of 5.2 percent over the $13.20 billion recorded in May 2011.

California exports to the European Union were down 10.3 percent from May of last year, while export shipments to the nations of the Pacific Rim were up 4 percent. Mexico continued to be the state’s largest and most vibrant export market, with exports in May up by 23.9 percent over May 2011.

"Given the generally parlous condition of the global marketplace these past few months, May’s overall numbers demonstrate the resilience of California’s export industries," said Jock O’Connell, Beacon Economics’ International Trade Adviser. 

The state’s manufactured exports in May were particularly impressive, jumping by 7.4 percent from $8.54 billion last May to $9.18 billion this year. Re-exports nudged up by 2.2 percent from $2.93 to $3.00 billion. However, exports of non-manufactured goods—chiefly agricultural products and raw materials—did slip by 1.1 percent from $1.72 billion in May 2011 to $1.70 billion this May. 

The growth in manufactured exports has been particularly helpful in boosting manufacturing employment in the state, which is up by more than 10,000 jobs since hitting bottom in September 2009, according to Beacon Economics’ Director of Economic Research Jordan Levine. "Although the pace of export growth has slowed from the double-digit increases we saw in 2010 and 2011, and despite the turmoil abroad, continued solid demand for California-made goods and services is helping drive employment in the manufacturing sector," Levine said.

Beacon Economics’ analysis also reported that, adjusting for inflation, the value of California’s exports so far in 2012 is running approximately 5 percent ahead of 2008, formerly the peak year for the state’s export trade.

"With the dollar stronger by more than 13 percent over last year at this time, much of Europe mired in recession, and slowing economic growth in major economies in Asia and South America, California exporters are facing some severe headwinds but are still coming out ahead of the game," O’Connell said. 

Still, global economic conditions could deteriorate further and affect California’s export trade, especially if efforts by European leaders to resolve the European Union’s debt drama continue to leave the world’s financial markets unimpressed, according to O‘Connell. 


Port Transfers Wetlands to Park Management

Later in July, the Port of Oakland joined with the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) and other environmental and community leaders to celebrate the restoration and transfer of nearly 8.5 acres of valuable seasonal wetlands from the Port of Oakland to the EBRPD.

"As a trustee of state tidelands this is an excellent example of the Port of Oakland’s commitment to protecting San Francisco Bay and providing public access," said Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar Benjamin. "It also demonstrates the dedication of port staff over the past decade to make this project a reality."

"Damon Slough is a valuable ecological area because of the need for seasonal wetlands in San Francisco Bay. This is a significant addition to the wetlands at MLK Regional Shoreline Park in San Leandro Bay," said Richard Sinkoff, the port’s Director of Environmental Programs and Planning.  "This project is a great example of what can be accomplished by government agencies, the environmental community, and interested citizens working together for a common goal."

The Port of Oakland, EBRPD, Golden Gate Audubon Society, Bay Conservation and Development Commission, Save the Bay, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, URS Corporation, City of Oakland, Regional Water Quality Control Board, and Federal Aviation Administration worked together to:

• Expand and enhance nearly 8.5 acres of seasonal wetlands

• Extend the S.F. Bay Trail by 500 feet, linking Garretson Point to the Damon Marsh Trail in MLK Regional Shoreline Park

• Create wildlife habitat and open space in perpetuity

• Plant, maintain and monitor over 7,000 plants, creating nesting and foraging habitat for wildlife

The port successfully completed all permit requirements and monitored the site for over five years to ensure the viability of the site as seasonal wetlands.