OAKLAND (BCN) – A new commercial shipping service linking the Port of Oakland to Asian markets kicked off Friday when the container vessel Africa Four motored into the Bay.

The roughly 750-foot-long ship is part of a fleet of about six vessels belonging to French logistics company CMA CGM that will carry goods between the ports of Shanghai and Yantian in China, Kaohsiung City in Taiwan and Oakland.

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It’s the first time in 10 years that ships from Asia will sail directly to Oakland, having typically docked in other ports like Los Angeles and Long Beach first, according to Port of Oakland officials.

“What’s driving this is the customer demand, with the increase of e-commerce companies in Northern California and traditional retail companies moving to the e-commerce platform,” said Port of Oakland’s Maritime Director Bryan Brandes.

The Ship Africa Four arrives under the Golden Gate Bridge on February 12, 2021. The ship is part of a new service directly linking Port of Oakland with ports in Asia. (Port of Oakland)

The Ship Africa Four arrives under the Golden Gate Bridge on February 12, 2021. The ship is part of a new service directly linking Port of Oakland with ports in Asia. (Port of Oakland)

Port officials believe the growth of online shopping caused in part by the COVID-19 pandemic is a permanent feature of the economy and anticipate additional similar shipping lines coming to Oakland from Asia in the future.

In addition to changing consumer behavior, the new shipping service – dubbed the Golden Gate Bridge service – is also partly in response to backups at Southern California ports, Brandes said.

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The new direct service to Oakland will shave off “ten-plus days” from shipping times, Brandes said.

Typically, the ships will be laden with things like auto parts, clothes and household goods bound for markets in the East Bay, Reno and Salt Lake City, among other places, he said.

The ships will dock every Friday to unload between 5,000 to 6,000 20-foot equivalent containers. Most will be loaded onto trucks but roughly 1,000 will take advantage of the port’s close rail connections.

The increased import activity will result in more jobs for dockworkers, truckers and warehouse workers, Brandes said.

Also, the port is poised to take advantage of the dramatic increase in shipping costs, which have ballooned from below $1,500 per container a year ago to more than $4,000 on average today, he said.

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