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Import cargo volume increased for the third straight month at the Port of Oakland, officials said in its August report, released today.

Containerized import volume jumped 9% compared to August 2019; exports rose slightly, up 1.4% compared to a year ago. Officials said the rebound is welcome news following the pandemic-related slowdowns of earlier this year, but said they remain cautiously optimistic given the uncertain economic climate.

“We remain cautious because, as we have already seen, the coronavirus pandemic has created lots of uncertainty,” Port of Oakland Maritime Director Bryan Brandes said in a statement Thursday. “We’re waiting to see how Covid-19 will affect our retail partners.”

Officials said the boost in imports is a result of U.S. retailers restocking their dwindling inventories. Shipments include pandemic-related items such as e-commerce goods, medical equipment, and personal protective equipment, they said. Exports were up due to improved demand for fruit and beverage shipments, they also said.

Despite the gains, year-to-date volume at the port  was down 5% compared to 2019, due mainly to a more than 25% drop in shipments of empty cargo containers back to origin destinations.

The news followed similar results from the Ports of Los Angeles, Virginia, and South Carolina earlier this week—all of which reported increases in imports as peak shipping season gets underway. 

Separately, conditions are improving in the air as well. U.S. international air cargo rose slightly in July compared to year-ago levels, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), released Thursday. U.S. and foreign airlines carried 0.4% more cargo by weight between the U.S. and foreign points during the month, including a 19% rise in cargo between the U.S. and Asia, according to BTS data from large air carriers. The increase followed year-over-year decreases in March (-17%), April (-16%), and June (-10%) BTS said. This was the first month without an annual decline since October 2018. 

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