Friday, May 1, 2020

Port of Oakland Chief Makes Case for Support

By Karen Robes Meeks

In a recent video conference, Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan urged the State Lands Commission to support efforts to financially stabilize the port as it copes with the business impact of COVID-19.

Wan told commissioners that declining airport and seaport revenues may mean major financial losses in fiscal years 2020 and 2021. He asked the commission to support the port’s efforts to seek help from government relief programs.

“We can no longer expect any semblance of business as usual in our operations,” Wan said, adding that the Port has halted discretionary spending, hiring and travel.

“We’re confident in our ability to be resilient amidst the crisis. We ask that you partner with us in a manner that is consistent both with this new reality and with the principles set forth with the Tidelands Trust.”

The port continues to operate the Oakland International Airport, and the Port of Oakland Seaport, despite passenger traffic being down 95 percent and cargo volume falling by 11 percent last month. “Our staff, tenants and customers have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 crisis from the outset,” Wan said. “While our staff resources have been strained to their full limits and beyond, we are all completely dedicated to providing essential governmental functions and essential business services on behalf of our first responders and residents.”

Meanwhile, 20 Oakland-bound voyages previously scheduled for May and June have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a 5 to 15 percent drop in cargo, the port told the Harbor Trucking Association last week.

“The Port of Oakland is operational in these unprecedented, challenging times and has stepped up for the state’s emergency response,” Wan told the commission, which governs the land use entrusted to the port under the State Tidelands Trust. “But we will need to adapt our business model to new realities and ask the Commission to continue to work with us to find creative, workable solutions to stabilize our finances.”