Japan disaster puts squeeze on Bay Area ports

March 25, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The earthquake and tsunami has slowed down production and shipping of Japanese goods that come to the United States. For the first since the tragedy two weeks ago, a tanker from Japan arrived at the Port of Oakland.

After China and South Korea, Japan is the third largest exporter of containerized goods to the United States. These are things like electronics, cars, auto products and computers.

Electricity shortages at manufacturing plants in Japan have slowed down production and then there are the damaged roads and bridges that make getting goods from point A to B difficult. Truck drivers at the Port of Oakland know they'll start feeling the impact in a few weeks.

"Right now, January, February and March are slow, but this year it is going to be even slower because of the Tsunami. We have to wait for that," truck driver Hector Cervantes said.

Some major companies in Silicon Valley like Apple are already being affected.

"All Apple does is design. Most of the assembly is done in China, but most of those components that the Chinese are putting together are Japanese components," James Lincoln from UC Berkeley Hass School of Business said.

Still he doesn't think the impact will be long lasting. Meanwhile, Toyota acknowledged it has stopped overtime at its 13 North America plants knowing there will be shortages.

"Short term there is going to be delays in shipping from Japan and longer term we are going to see what it's going to take for them and their rebuilding process. How is that going to impact potential increase in exports versus decrease in imports," Isaac Kos-Read from the Port of Oakland said.

But Lincoln doesn't see the amount of U.S. exports to Japan rising in 2010. We exported 3.4 billion worth of goods to Japan, mainly meats, fruits and vegetables.

"We buy much more from them than they do from us. So I don't think you'll see much of a dent in terms of U.S. exports," Lincoln said.


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