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At the same time, the impact of containerization on ports and their physical surroundings—the maritime landscapes—played out in unexpected ways in the San Francisco Bay area. Less than a decade after containers were introduced, Oakland was second only to New York in the volume of containers handled among world ports. San Francisco lagged behind and never challenged Oakland’s position as the primary commercial port in the bay area.

San Francisco waterfront

San Francisco’s hilly landscape, heavily developed waterfront, and historic finger piers were not conducive to container port development, which required large expanses of open, flat ground.

The Port of Oakland, 1968

The Port of Oakland attracted shipping companies by developing container facilities on filled land near the western terminus of the Southern Pacific Railroad. The port’s links to major rail and road networks proved superior to those on the San Francisco side of the bay.

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