Oakland seeks turning basin expansion to boost competitiveness

THE Port of Oakland officials plan to expand the turning basins to accommodate ships of 18,000-TEU capacity, as well as upgrade roads

06 December 2019 - 19:00

THE Port of Oakland officials plan to expand the turning basins to accommodate ships of 18,000-TEU capacity, as well as upgrade roads.

The port will continue to invest in areas that raise its efficiency and keep it competitive, the port's new executive director Danny Wan told American Shipper.

Mr Wan noted that the port is seeing record growth, and handled a record 2,589,698 TEU during its 2018-19 fiscal year, which ended on June 30. Between July and October this year, it handled 854,148 TEU, down from the 894,672 TEU during the same period in 2018.

In October, exports were up 10.8 per cent despite the fallout from the ongoing trade war between China and the US.

'Our export customers have demonstrated their resilience throughout this tariff standoff,' said the port's maritime director John Driscoll.

'I anticipate that that kind of steady growth will continue,' Mr Wan said during an interview. He added that he and Mr Driscoll will 'continue to look at innovative ways to make our operations more efficient,' including cutting the turn time for truckers moving containers to and from marine terminals by getting more information to truckers, and getting more gate times for truckers.

The port is investing between US$250 million and $500 million to make its roadways more truck friendly, adding more lanes to Seventh Street, one of the port's main corridors.

The port's planned expansion of its two turning basins would enable ships to turn 180 degrees so it is easier for them to leave the harbour. At present the largest ships that can use the inner turning basin are 1,210 feet long and have a capacity of 14,000 TEU.

'We are looking at having to serve vessels that are over 1,300 feet in length in the future,' the port's chief wharfinger Eric Napralla said. While the extra 100 feet may not sound like much, pilots who navigate the ships in the tight space require extra space.

While there are berths at the port than can accommodate ships of up to 18,000-TEU capacity, Mr Napralla pointed out that such vessels have to be brought in 'surgically' - during daylight hours, shutting down other port traffic.

That would be difficult to do on a regular basis since it would have a ripple effect of delaying other ships in the port.

In August, the port submitted an application to the Army Corps of Engineers for a feasibility study on the proposed turning basin expansion works that it plans to commence in 2020. Mr Napralla said the study will assess the environmental impacts, costs and benefits and optimal design of the proposed project.

He cautioned that the study could determine the project does not 'pencil out.' The study alone is expected to cost upwards of $5 million to $6 million, with the corps funding up to $1.5 million.

He said there is heavy investment in distribution and warehousing facilities around Reno and that 'the natural port for that is the Port of Oakland.'

'If the railroads could help us in terms of making that connection between us and Reno, I think there is lots of business to be had, lots of money to be made.'


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