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June 9, 2017 11:35 AM, EDT
Port of Oakland Import Volume Reaches Two-Year High Ahead of Busy Shipping Season
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

Import volume at the Port of Oakland, Calif., has reached a two-year high, which officials say is a good sign as the port heads into the busy summer-fall shipping season.

The port handled the equivalent of 82,440 20-foot import containers, up 1.4% from May 2016, the highest volume since August 2015, when it handled the equivalent of 82,492 20-foot import boxes, according to information released by the port June 8.

The news comes as 2016 saw a record level of loaded shipping container volume at the port, despite it having consolidated its number of shipping terminals earlier in the year. Most of that came from a year-long growth clip in exports — particularly agricultural products — that were in demand in Asia.

Oakland’s position near California growing regions such as Napa Valley and Central Valley, and as a departure point for Asian-bound ships, has long helped boost its export business, but import volume has also been on the rise for a while. Imports account for 48% of containers shipped through Oakland.

“Our import volume has been up four consecutive months,” said Port of Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll in a news release from the port. “That’s encouraging as we head into the traditionally busy summer-fall peak season.”

Overall volume at the port — including imports, exports and empty containers — increased 2.2% during the first five months in 2017 compared to the same period last year, even though the number of vessels visiting Oakland was actually down by 7%. That’s due to larger ships carrying more cargo to the port. So-called “megaships” capable of transporting up to 14,000 20-foot containers come to Oakland each week, according to the port.