Moving cargo at TraPac terminal in the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif. in the late 2010s. (Photo courtesy the Port of Oakland/Kelly Patrick Dugan)

“Retail therapy” linked to a recovering economy may be responsible for record trade volume in the first quarter of 2021 through the Port of Oakland, port officials said Thursday.

Retail therapy is spending on goods and services to counter the frustration stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Trade volume in the first three months of 2021 totaled the equivalent of 631,119 20-foot containers, loaded or empty, topping the previous first-quarter record of 612,151 in 2019.

“Our business has been growing for nearly a year now,” Port Maritime Director Bryan Brandes said in a statement. “Based on the evidence, we expect the trend line to keep going up.”

Trade activity is at unprecedented levels between the U.S. and Asia, which accounts for most of the port’s trade volume.

Three indicators point to further trade growth at the Port of Oakland. One is strong demand demonstrated by freight rates that are near all-time highs on the trans-Pacific route. Also, ships traveling between Asia and the U.S. are nearly full, and West Coast ports are bustling, with ships sometimes waiting days for berth space.

In March, trade volume was also at a record. April numbers will be out in two weeks, and volume is expected to be strong, port officials said.

Keith Burbank, Bay City News

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.