Ports Welcome Cargo Carriers and Warriors

A Port of Oakland executive is eager for changes in the way container shipping lines operate. Maritime Director John Driscoll stated in an interview late last month that newly formed ocean carrier alliances will benefit his port.

The Port of Oakland expects to see larger vessels coming to the port soon due to newly formed ocean carrier alliances. Photo by Joel Williams


Published: May, 2017


A Port of Oakland executive is eager for changes in the way container shipping lines operate. Maritime Director John Driscoll stated in an interview late last month that newly formed ocean carrier alliances will benefit his port.


“We’ll see larger vessels coming to the port, which is a good thing,” Driscoll said. “We’ll get more container moves per vessel, which increases the efficiency of operations.”


Driscoll’s comments are in reaction to a major realignment—which took effect on April 1—whereby 11 of the world’s largest shipping lines formed three new alliances.


Driscoll also said the port will receive a new weekly vessel service as a consequence of carrier realignment. Taiwan-based Wan Hai Lines plans to launch a new route connecting Oakland and Asia, he said. That will bring the number of regularly scheduled vessel services calling Oakland to 29. “It’s a good sign when new players come to Oakland,” Driscoll said.


In a perfect world, alliances will permit carriers to pool ships on ocean routes to cut costs while expanding market reach at the same time. The carriers plan to deploy larger vessels in their alliances, carrying more containers to the West Coast. That may enable them to reduce the number of voyages while maintaining cargo volume levels.


But despite Driscoll’s optimism, some in the industry see challenges. For Tom Perdue, chief commercial officer of Ports America, this season may bring a perfect storm, as carriers try to synchronize calls to various terminals that may not be prepared for sudden surges in volume.


“We are entering new territory here,” Perdue said, “and many terminal operators are concerned about the critical mass of boxes being staged at one port or another.”


Donna Lemm, executive vice president of transportation services firm IMC Companies, echoed that concern, noting that her customers are fairly frantic about securing enough container chassis as the new alliances get their acts together. “We have been given few assurances about how many chassis will be available, and who will be charged with providing them,” she said. “Cargo owners are also worried about finding enough containers for outbound moves when they are most needed.”


Driscoll, nonetheless, remains bullish. “When shipping lines can be more efficient—and healthier financially—we all benefit,” he said.


Driscoll said new alliance configurations should have little impact on Oakland operations. Some vessels will change which of Oakland’s three international marine terminals they call, but the terminals are prepared, he said.


San Francisco Bay Railroad Begins Soil Transport for New Warriors Arena


The San Francisco Bay Railroad (SFBR), a Port of San Francisco tenant located on Pier 96 and India Basin, has begun the transportation of excess soil from the new Golden State Warriors arena in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood.


The first shipment of construction debris left San Francisco last month via train. The freight rail yard, part of the Port of San Francisco’s Southern Waterfront Industrial Complex, is less than two miles from the new arena site. That the Warriors were able to rely on freight rail to remove construction debris highlights the benefits that the freight rail system brings to San Francisco—including hiring local residents and reducing traffic congestion as well as air emissions, said port spokespeople.


“Protecting our environment, promoting skilled industrial jobs and maintaining freight rail reflects the port’s mission,” said Port of San Francisco Executive Director Elaine Forbes. “The Golden State Warriors’ decision to choose freight rail in the development of the new sports arena means more work for our local Bayview residents and a lower emissions alternative that protects our environment.”


Using San Francisco’s own freight rail system to ship the additional soil will eliminate up to 7,500 trucks from Bay Area bridges and roadways during the next several months of the project. Moving the soil by rail is 90 percent more fuel efficient than trucking, and it also reduces associated emissions by up to 90 percent.


“Using rail for construction materials will keep 16,000 trucks off our streets and the Bay Bridge this year,” said San Francisco Bay Railroad President David Gavrich. “We are proud to be a port tenant and to work with the Golden State Warriors during this important milestone for the arena, just two miles from our facility.”


San Francisco Bay Railroad provides this type of service to many large construction projects in San Francisco. The rail operator recently completed a $1.3 million project to expand the rail yard track in order to accommodate future growth, including mammoth projects like the Golden State Warriors arena.


In support of freight rail, the Port of San Francisco renewed the San Francisco Bay Railroad lease for an additional five years.  Additionally, the port obtained a $1.5 million grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to replace a 1944 locomotive with a state-of-the-art, lower-emissions model.