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December 16, 2019 1:45 PM, EST

New Executive Director Danny Wan Sees Bright Future for Port of Oakland

Port of OaklandPort of Oakland via Ben Margot/Associated Press

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Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan has been a fixture at the port and City Hall for 20 years before being appointed to the top position at one of the nation’s busiest ports in November.

He served as a member of the region’s water and sewer district board, the Oakland City Council, city attorney, the Port Authority’s attorney, briefly the acting executive director and now executive director.

“It is a dream job for me. I have been a longtime resident of Oakland and a booster,” he said. “I am proud to set the course for the port for the future to make sure we are the economic engine for the region.”

In an interview with Transport Topics Radio, Wan said one of his most prominent duties is promoting the port and making it accessible for shippers and trucking companies.

Danny Wan

Wan

“We have the capacity; we are ramping up our warehousing and docking/distribution facilities at the port,” he said. “So we have to get the news out that we are ready to do business, we have the capacity, and we are efficient.”

The Port of Oakland is the nation’s ninth busiest and fourth biggest on the Pacific Coast, behind Los Angeles, Long Beach and Seattle-Tacoma.

Even with the trade dispute between the United States and China, the port is just fractionally behind 2018’s record pace for 20-foot equivalent unit containers, or TEUs. Through November, it had processed 2,302,717 TEUs compared with 2,325,428 in the first 11 months of 2018, a decrease of less than 1%.

Wan says the port has managed to avoid serious damage to its business, despite the tariffs.

“The Port of Oakland has reported two consecutive years of record container volumes, despite the tariff problems. We attribute that to a very regional economy here. As long as the regional economy is strong, we are strong,” Wan said.

The Port of Oakland is a major supplier of agriculture products overseas as commodities account for about 37% of all international exports shipped from Oakland. Farm goods range from containerized rice to dried fruits, nuts and refrigerated beef.

Last year, it opened a 280,000-square-foot refrigeration facility for beef, pork and chicken, and most of those products are being shipped to Asia. The facility can handle 1 million tons of frozen products per year.

Also, the port is working to keep up with other ports that are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to buy bigger cranes to handle larger ships and to make other infrastructure improvements. Wan says plans call for spending up to $500 million to improve access to the port for trucks and reduce congestion in the nearby neighborhoods.

“We need to improve the roadways within the ports to make sure the trucks and the trains can get to the cargo ships, so we make that efficient,” Wan said.

“We established night gates at our terminal operations,” he said, “and that has relieved a lot of the congestion during the daytime and spread the cargo out. We have appointment systems, and that has been absolutely a good solution.”

Wan says the port also plans to modernize the truck routes to separate as much traffic as possible away from the neighborhoods.

There is another development in the planning stages that has nothing to do with ships, trucks and TEUs. Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics is renegotiating with the port, the City of Oakland and other government agencies to build a 34,000-seat privately funded stadium at the site of the now-closed Howard Terminal, which has not been used for cargo vessels for six years. The proposed ballpark would sit on a 55-acre footprint on the east side of San Francisco Bay overlooking the water.

“The Oakland A’s are proposing to use an unused water terminal at the port for the ballpark,” Wan said.

There still are numerous hurdles to overcome before construction begins, including a decision about what will be done with the team’s current park, RingCentral Coliseum. The 54-year-old multipurpose facility generally is considered to be one of MLB’s worst stadiums. The team has been trying for years, without success, to replace the park, and just this month, it became the last stadium to host baseball and the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders in the same year. The Raiders will begin playing in Las Vegas next season.

Wan says the new ballpark, if it’s built, could be the centerpiece for an entertainment district near the port and downtown Oakland. But, he says, cargo comes first.

“It would certainly add to the vitality of the area. However, the Board of Commissioners has made it clear for this project to proceed it would absolutely not have to interfere with our seaport operations, both in transportation and in routing and making sure the fan traffic and the port traffic are separate.”

The full interview with Danny Wan will air on Transport Topics Radio on SiriusXM Channel 146 on Dec. 29 from 1:30 to 2 p.m.

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