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Port of Oakland Resumes Work After Week of Truckers' Protests

Port of Oakland resumes work
Work resumed on Monday at the Port of Oakland after truckers blocked the port last week (file photo)

Published Jul 25, 2022 5:52 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Oakland is open and functioning normally after a week of protests by independent truck drivers brought operations in the U.S.’s eight busiest port basically to a halt for several days last week. Protests over California’s controversial “gig workers” law known as AB5 continue but the drivers agreed to stop their efforts to block the gates and threatening trucks and people if they attempted to cross the picket line.

“The truckers have been heard and we now urge them to voice their grievances with lawmakers, not the Port of Oakland,” said Danny Wan, Port Executive Director in a statement early on Monday. According to Wan, last week’s protests prevented the timely flow of international commerce including medical supplies, agricultural products, auto and technology parts, livestock, and manufacturing parts.

The protests began on July 18 with the independent truckers demanding to meet with California Governor Gavin Newsom to air their grievances and demand a continued exemption to the law that went into effect in 2020. The law makes it more costly and difficult to be an independent owner-operator according to the truckers with many saying they would be forced to give up independent operation. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the truckers’ appeal on the case clearing the way for California to expand the law which covers other sectors to include the trucking industry.

The three major terminal operators were reportedly forced to suspend operations in the Port of Oakland for at least three days. Reports said 450 longshoremen were being sent home each day. Terminal operators said even if they could unload boxes from the inbound ships they were running out of space in the yards to stack the boxes.

Late last week, port and local officials proposed that the protestors move to designated spots where they could continue their demonstrations without blocking movement into and out of the port. In addition, reports said the police, which had permitted the protests to proceed last week, were now prepared to take action if the protestors did not withdraw. Port of Oakland officials acknowledged today that City of Oakland, regional and state law enforcement are continuing to monitor and implement measures to keep traffic flowing.

“We appreciate the independent truck drivers' use of the designated Free Speech Zones and we thank local law enforcement for their continued assistance,” said Wan. He declared that “The Port of Oakland has resumed full operations.”

Protestors did not show up at the gates over the weekend when the port offers limited weekend hours. However, the test came on Monday the first full day of work. Vessels had begun late last week to divert seeking alternative spaces mostly in the Southern California ports due to the uncertainty at Oakland. AIS data shows at least a dozen containerships anchored in San Francisco Bay today.

While the port is open many people associated with the operations cautioned with will take days or weeks to fully recover. Bill Aboudi, president of trucking company Oakland Port Services told The Wall Street Journal there were no slot reservations for trucks available before Tuesday night. He said it was as if everyone was trying to cram a week’s worth of work into one or two days with him predicting “Nothing will be normal for another few weeks.”

It is unclear what will happen next. The Governor’s office continues to say it is committed to enforcing the law and was preparing to begin a transition period. The Port of Oakland, however, reportedly offered to form a working group to provide the truckers with an opportunity to review concerns before the law goes into effect.