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New queuing system at Port of Oakland aims to improve air quality, safety

A recent overhead photo of the busy Port of Oakland.
Michael Layefsky
Flickr / Creative Commons
A recent overhead photo of the busy Port of Oakland.

The new voluntary system that went into effect Monday is for container ships calling on the Port of Oakland, according to three shipping groups. It is aimed at reducing backlogs caused by the COVID pandemic.

Under the new system, ships will get an arrival time based on when they left their last port of call. The vessels will wait 50 miles off the coast in a safety and air quality zone until their scheduled arrival time at the Port. Before Monday, ships were given an arrival time when they were fewer than 80 nautical miles from the coast.

The program follows the success of a similar one in Southern California, the new system is being expanded to the Bay Area.

The streamlined system will allow ships to take their time getting to Oakland, reducing emissions while at sea. It will also allow more space between vessels at sea, making shipping safer especially in the winter when storms are brewing.

Jim McKenna, the president and CEO of the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents maritime companies that do business on the West Coast, said in a statement that the updated system has QUOTE, “reduced the number of vessels at anchor near our ports, enabling safer operation for vessels and their crews as well as additional protections for coastal communities.” UNQUOTE

Nine vessels were waiting off the Bay Area coast on Friday, but that number was expected to increase, Oakland port officials said. The new system is not meant to reduce the number of ships calling on the Port of Oakland.