Cargo volume declined last month at the Port of Oakland due to fewer arriving vessels, port officials said.

March volume dipped 11 percent year-over-year, led by exports, which fell 25 percent. Imports were off 3 percent. Officials said 82 ships stopped in Oakland, 11 fewer than a year ago.

Port officials, however, said they see hints of better times ahead.

“We’re pleased with our March figures,” said Port of Oakland Maritime Director Bryan Brandes. “Despite continued COVID-related lockdowns in China, we expect our container volumes to rise as we approach the summer months.”

Volumes are expected to rise following the easing of congestion at port berths. Congestion was part of the reason for the decline in volume as was a COVID-19-related shutdown at the port in Shanghai, China.

China is Oakland’s top trading partner, port officials said.

Along with the easing of congestion, the arrival of loaded import containers at the Port of Oakland were up 10 percent recently and March was the eighth-busiest month in port history.

The 25 percent decline in exports hit shippers of agricultural products especially hard. Agricultural shippers found it difficult to find containers or vessel space to transport their goods.

The Port of Oakland recently established a dedicated place for shippers to pick up empty containers, which will allow them to avoid busy marine terminals.

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.