Niche Bay Ports Bullish on Cargo, While Oakland Takes a Rest

The Port of Stockton, which is the fourth largest port in California, reports that cargo volume hit an all-time high in 2018.


Published: April, 2019


The Port of Stockton, which is the fourth largest port in California, reports that cargo volume hit an all-time high in 2018. Although up just slightly compared with 2017, overall cargo volume grew for the third straight year and reached a record-setting 4.7 million metric tons.


The port handles dry bulk, breakbulk, liquid bulk, warehousing and project cargoes, and its services include stevedoring, warehousing, inventory management and transloading.


Cargo growth wasn’t the only story here, said port authorities, as the niche gateway also saw its tenant base hit a new record for the second straight year.


“In the current climate of challenging international trade, these accomplishments are precedent setting and once again highlight the unique strengths of the Port of Stockton’s staff and facilities,” said Port of Stockton Director Richard Aschieris in a statement.



Port of Redwood City Reports Strong Growth


Stockton’s report mirrors the good news offered by the Port of Redwood City when it announced its mid-year results in January, reinforcing continued maritime and foreign trade growth and operational success serving the Silicon Valley region.


For the period ending December 31, 2018, the port’s cargo results were 1.36 million metric tons, an increase of 150,000 metric tons from the same period last year, generating $4.78 million in revenue to the port, an increase of $470,000 from the same period last year. The mid-year results are ahead of last year’s historic levels, setting new record levels in both cargo tonnage and revenue to Redwood City. Last year’s fiscal year cargo and revenue results were the best in operational history, generating a 49 percent percent increase in cargo over the prior year. The port’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.


“The port’s mid-year results continue to lay a strong foundation for both cargo and revenue growth. Nearly half a million dollars better than our best year in operational history is quite an accomplishment and furthers our maritime and economic development goals serving Silicon Valley,” said Lorianna Kastrop, chair of the port commission. “Construction industry trends indicate continued growth over the next five years and as a result, the port anticipates strong results for the remainder of 2019 due to construction materials continuing to be top ranking port imports. These positive maritime trade results allow us to support the local Redwood City community through an annual payment (or subvention) to support city services and activate recreational waterfront uses.”


The port’s mid-year cargo and revenue activity highlights its focus on construction materials to the area with top ranking materials imported including sand, aggregates, gypsum, slag and bauxite, with scrap metal as the primary export. Forty-two cargo vessels and seventeen barges called to the port from July to December 2018 generating the maritime cargo tonnage announced. Cargo originates from countries including Australia, Canada and Mexico, while exports travel to Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, India and Bangladesh.


The Port of Redwood City is the only deep-water port in the South San Francisco Bay, with a channel depth of 30 feet mean lower low water, offering three deep-water berths and five wharves to support international foreign trade and maritime activities of the Silicon Valley region and west coast of the United States.



Oakland Cargo Surge Slows


As with California’s other major container ports, Oakland announced that its six-month-long cargo surge came to a halt. This came as no surprise, said Port of Oakland spokespeople, adding that cargo volume was down 1.3 percent from a year ago.


February import cargo decreased five percent, year-over-year, the port reported. It was the first decline in import volume since July 2018. February exports were down 8.2 percent. The shipment of empty containers back to origin destinations increased nearly seven percent.


The port attributed decreased volume mostly to a pause by shippers following a 2018 global trade “frenzy.” Shipments spiked last year as importers rushed cargo to the United States ahead of anticipated tariff increases. Analysts have since predicted an import slowdown due to jammed warehouses and delays in tariff hikes.


The port said export volume has been held down by a strong U.S. dollar. When the dollar is strong, American goods are costlier for overseas purchasers.


Shipping lines have responded to lower volumes by canceling some Asia-U.S. voyages, the port said. Asia is the port’s primary trading partner. Oakland reported a 9.7 percent drop in February vessel calls compared to last year.


Oakland’s communications director, Mike Zampa, said in an interview that the moderation of volume has enabled terminals to regain operating equilibrium. “Turn times are down in previous trouble spots,” he said.


Patrick Burnson is the executive editor of Logistics Management.