Maritime Cargo Stakeholders Come Together to Oppose Oakland A's Waterfront Stadium

A rare alliance in the ocean cargo industry-including shippers, terminals operators, dockside labor and port authorities-has taken form recently in response to perceived threats to operations posed by a proposed 35,000-seat waterfront baseball stadium at the Port of Oakland's Howard Terminal.


Published: June, 2019


A rare alliance in the ocean cargo industry—including shippers, terminals operators, dockside labor and port authorities—has taken form recently in response to perceived threats to operations posed by a proposed 35,000-seat waterfront baseball stadium at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal. The Oakland Athletics will soon be the East Bay’s sole remaining major professional sports franchise.


The Port of Oakland Commissioners recently approved a plan that gives the A’s four years to advance their quest for the new stadium, but that plan imposed numerous firm preconditions that, industry insiders say, may be difficult for the team to meet. The seven-member Board of Port Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt the exclusive negotiation term sheet.


The port emphasized that the board’s vote does not commit the port to the ballpark project. It said no binding agreements would be considered before the A’s meet their obligations. Among the conditions the team must meet before the port will even consider a proposal are:

A completed environmental impact report on the stadium proposal;

Land use approvals from various public agencies; and

Real estate agreements with the port and other landowners.


The board’s vote punctuated a year of negotiations between the port and the baseball team. In addition to the stadium, the A’s also plan to build housing at Howard Terminal. The ballpark would be built on the Oakland Estuary adjacent to the port’s Jack London Square entertainment district.


Before voting, commissioners adopted an amendment to the term sheet. It committed the port to negotiating measures, designs and operational standards to ensure that the project doesn’t impact or interfere with the port’s use or operations outside of the project. “The port will consult seaport and maritime stakeholders regarding such measures,” the amendment said.


Howard Terminal is one of six marine terminals in Oakland. It hasn’t been used for container cargo operations since 2013, but remains key to vessel berthing, truck and container parking and depot operations. Furthermore, it’s a training space for longshore workers and other logistics services supporting port operations.


Which brings us to examine the unprecedented support the port is getting from organized labor. Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has gone on the record with its adamant stance against the A’s plan, stating that the terminal represents “sacred ground.”


Finally, the Pacific Merchant Ship-ping Association, Harbor Trucking As-sociation and Agriculture Transportation Association also oppose legislation relaxing the environmental laws that apply to the construction of a stadium project at Howard Terminal.


But the nail in the coffin for the A’s proposal may come when another coalition of community and environmental groups weigh in with their conditions, say industry observers.


The team claims that its plans for the property would create badly-needed housing near the new proposed ballpark. Opponents note that new apartments and condos would merely be an extension of gentrification in what was once a working-class city.


Bulk Shipping Could Return to Oakland After Long Hiatus


Bulk shipping operations could soon return to the Port of Oakland for the first time in 20 years. The port recently announced that it’s negotiating with a Canadian building materials shipper to transport sand and gravel here.


The port’s governing board has authorized talks with Vancouver-based Eagle Rock Aggregates. The firm seeks a vessel berth along with 20 acres of adjacent land at the port’s Outer Harbor Terminal.


Eagle Rock would use the property as a base for distributing sand and gravel for Bay Area construction sites. The firm said it wants a 15-year lease for one berth on Outer Harbor. Eagle Rock would ship sand and gravel from British Columbia to produce concrete.


Oakland is one of the busiest container seaports in the United States. It handled the equivalent of 2.5 million 20-foot containers last year. But the port said bulk shipping wouldn’t hamper container operations. It explained that it doesn’t plan to use the property for container handling until 2035.


The port has nearly 1,300 acres devoted to containerized cargo. Outer Harbor Terminal is currently used for container-related activities as well as berthing for vessels in lay-up for extended periods.


“This is an opportunity for us to perhaps diversify our business,” said Port of Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll. “We’ve built the Port of Oakland to be a global gateway for containerized cargo—but a steady, divergent revenue stream could be beneficial.”


A deal to transport bulk cargo through Oakland would mark a new twist in the port’s 92-year history. The port began life in 1927 handling bulk commodities loaded directly into the holds of ships. Oakland revolutionized shipping in 1962 when it introduced containerized cargo to the West Coast. With containerization, freight is first stuffed into 20 or 40-foot steel containers before being loaded to a vessel.


Oakland abandoned bulk in 1999 by adopting Vision 2000, a totally containerized cargo strategy. Now it could be going back to its roots, albeit on a small scale. Asked if the port expected any resistance to the plan by community and environmental groups, the port noted that the product is clean—watered down rock that won’t create dust—and the operation will continually sweep to ensure no pollution.


“This is only entering the negotiation phase, so the port and potential tenant will have ample time to address environmental concerns,” said Port of Oakland Communications Director Mike Zampa.


Patrick Burnson is the executive editor of Logistics Management.