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Port of Oakland to state agency: help us cope with COVID-19

[ May 1, 2020   //   ]

Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan praised his agency’s coronavirus response but now issues a plea for help. The Port’s top official asked a key state regulator to support financial stabilization efforts as the pandemic cripples businesses.
“The Port of Oakland is operational in these unprecedented, challenging times and has stepped up for the state’s emergency response,” Mr. Wan told the State Lands Commission. “But we will need to adapt our business model to new realities and ask the Commission to continue to work with us to find creative, workable solutions to stabilize our finances.”

The Executive Director joined a video conference to address Commissioners assessing the impacts of COVID-19 in California. The Commission regulates the use of land entrusted to the Port nearly a century ago under the State Tidelands Trust.
Mr. Wan highlighted the Port’s official role as critical community infrastructure during the coronavirus pandemic. He pointed to three specific contributions:
• Continuing operations at Oakland International Airport even though passenger traffic has declined 95 percent;
• Full operations at the Port of Oakland Seaport, though total cargo volume dropped 11 percent last month;
• Berthing the cruise ship Grand Princess last month to discharge passengers, some with COVID-19.
“Our staff, tenants and customers have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 crisis from the outset,” Mr. Wan said. “While our staff resources have been strained to their full limits and beyond, we are all completely dedicated to providing essential governmental functions and essential business services on behalf of our first responders and residents.”

Mr. Wan told Commissioners that the Port has concentrated on the health and safety of staff and customers. Now it’s coming to grips with a severe revenue shortfall. The Port doesn’t receive tax revenue, the Executive Director pointed out. With Airport and Seaport income falling, the Port expects to report steep financial losses in fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

The Port has stopped discretionary spending and suspended hiring and travel, Mr. Wan said. “We can no longer expect any semblance of business as usual in our operations,” the Executive Director declared.

Mr. Wan said the Port is seeking assistance from government relief programs. He asked the Commission to advocate for those efforts.

“We’re confident in our ability to be resilient amidst the crisis,” Mr. Wan said. “We ask that you partner with us in in a manner that is consistent both with this new reality and with the principles set forth with the Tidelands Trust.”

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