On a recent tour of SSA’s terminal in Oakland, we were able to see first-hand two cranes that were raised by 27′.  A third is currently under construction, while the fourth awaits its turn.

These cranes will be able to reach containers on the top tier of the new mega-ships. These ships are currently on rotation in the TransPacific trade, and these cranes will make the Port of Oakland one of the few ports in the US able to accommodate these large ships.


SSA’s terminal in Oakland had an off-site location to return and pick up empty containers, the Roundhouse. The purpose of the Roundhouse was to improve turn times and cargo flows.  After nearly a year and a half of operations, SSA has decided to close the Roundhouse citing the implementation of additional equipment and labor at their main terminal.


Ship at Dock 10In our travels, everyone wants to know, “What’s going on in Oakland?” We are immersed in it and live and breathe it every day and sometimes forget to fill in the blanks for those not as connected.  So, here goes our overview:


Since the Ports America closure, 85% of that vessel and container traffic found a home at SSA, thereby, increasing their cargo volumes by 70%. Yes, quite a chunk, and as you have likely felt, it has been a challenge.  There are several initiatives in place to help increase cargo velocity.   

Extended Gates:  SSA is open Saturdays and Monday-Thursday nights for empty containers in and out, chassis re-positioning, refrigerated containers in and out, wheeled imports and one-stop imports.  Tuesday-Thursday nights export containers are added to the allowable transactions, basically, everything but the impacted import rows served via transtainer cranes.  The Port of Oakland is helping fund these night and weekend gates through the end of the month.  After which point, there is some discussion around a fee-based system to help offset the cost of these gates.


STE Dray Off:  In order to relieve the congestion in the import transtainer rows, Shippers Transport Express (STE), a sister company to SSA, is shuttling containers from SSA to their yard. Containers are randomly selected for this dray off program.  While the customer may have to wait a few days longer for access to the container, it is an easier transaction for the motor carrier.  STE is working with the port to expand their footprint. They need more real estate to truly make this program successful.


SSA Appointment System:  To help alleviate the conundrum of the “closed area of the yard,” effective June 6th, SSA is mandating the use of an appointment system.  Import lanes are so congested, it is commonplace for yard locations to start closing down before 9:00 am and for driver wait times to exceed 4-5 hours in these areas. The goals of requiring appointments are to even out the flow of trucks throughout the day, eliminate the closed-area notices, and service drivers in a reasonable amount of time.


Roundhouse:  The Roundhouse is a piece of property in the port area that SSA has recently leased from the Port of Oakland.  SSA is accepting and releasing empty equipment from this location with the intention of reducing queues and transactions at their main terminal.  This location is open Monday-Friday 0800-1630.


DrayQ:  The Port of Oakland’s turn time technology went live recently.  DrayQ is an app that uses Bluetooth technology to record and report both street queue times and terminal turn times for each marine terminal in Oakland.


Ports America Ship at DockAbout six years into their 50-year lease, Ports America announced they will be ceasing operations in Oakland.

The original agreement between the Port of Oakland and Ports America included lease rates significantly below market in exchange for Ports America performing the necessary capital improvements at Outer Harbor Terminal. This agreement brought on the ire of the other terminal operators in Oakland, so much so, that SSA sued and eventually came to a settlement with the port.

During their six-year tenancy, Ports America did not upgrade the terminal as agreed.  Instead, they plan to cease vessel operations in the next 30 days and evacuate the terminal in the next 60 days. In an effort to smooth the transition, Port of Oakland management is working with Ports America to extend the timeline.

Ocean carriers who have been calling Ports America are actively looking for new homes for their vessels and containers.  It is expected that CMA, Maersk and MSC will land at SSA and K-Line at TraPac.  TraPac, already in negotiations with the port to expand their terminal, is looking to take over an additional two berths and 44 acres.

In the port’s opinion, the marine terminals in Oakland are operating below capacity and the traffic at Ports America can easily be absorbed by the remaining terminals.  The port intends to explore non-containerized operations for Outer Harbor Terminal including ro-ro and bulk businesses.

In our opinion, while there may be enough berth space and land to handle the business, yard and gate operations will suffer.  Evergreen temporarily moved to SSA in December while they upgraded their terminal, and that move created congestion and long truck turn times at SSA.  The addition of CMA, Maersk and MSC will surely have a negative impact on truck turn times.

SSA plans to operate night and weekend gates to accommodate the increased volumes.  The frequency of night gates and the specific transaction types accepted are yet to be determined.  The Port of Oakland has plans to subsidize night and weekend gates during the transition period to ensure a successful conversion.

There are many moving parts to this change.  We are unsure how it will all shake out, but we will keep you informed.


11Truck Emissions Down 76% in Oakland

The Port of Oakland is well on its way to accomplishing its goal of reducing emissions by 85% by 2020.  A recent study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows carbon emissions dropped by 76% between 2009 and 2013.  Additionally, Nitrous Oxide emissions declined 53% during this same time period.

The trucking industry is proud of this accomplishment and is pleased to move to the port’s goal forward.



From New York/New Jersey to Vancouver, BC…from Virginia to Oakland…even Los Angeles/Long Beach…drivers are fed up with the slow operations and congestion at marine terminals. The reasons for the slowdowns are myriad. Inclement weather, new computer systems, terminal consolidations, increase in volumes, chassis shortages, labor shortages and equipment failures are the most common.

Motor carriers, port authorities and industry groups are clamoring for improvement and a return to productive operations. Letters have been written. Task forces have been created. But the slowdowns remain. We cannot keep doing the same thing and hoping for a different outcome. Isn’t that a definition of insanity?

Ports America in Oakland is looking to stop the insanity. For the month of March, they are implementing a night gate each Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 6:00pm to 3:00am. They will accept empty containers in and empty and loaded containers out. It is a trial to gauge the usage and productivity improvements. Motor carriers’ past experience with off-hour gates has not been overly positive, and it will take substantial coordination on container availability both in and out as well as driver hours of service. Nevertheless, we applaud Ports America on making this significant investment in an effort to smooth operations. We will keep you posted on the progress and effectiveness of these night gates.