More cargo ships passing through Bay 

The familiar sights and sounds of massive cargo ships are returning in growing numbers to the waterways that surround San Francisco.

The ships, which dock in Oakland, pass beneath the Golden Gate Bridge as they enter and exit the Bay. Their foghorns echo on misty days and nights throughout waterfront neighborhoods.

But freight traffic in the Bay slowed down after overstretched credit markets collapsed in late 2008. The subsequent credit shortage slowed trade worldwide.

The economic collapse reduced imports into the Port of Oakland by 18 percent from April 2008 to April 2009, figures show. Exports fell by 4 percent during the same period.

But worldwide trade is picking up again, meaning there are more boats streaming through the Bay every day, Port of Oakland figures show. Imports rose 14 percent from April 2009 to April 2010, while exports increased 0.5 percent.

The return of the ships in growing numbers increases air pollution and the risks of an oil spill. In late 2007, roughly 53,000 gallons of fuel gushed into the Bay from the Cosco Busan after the departing container ship struck a Bay Bridge tower.

But the increased shipping traffic helps boost regional employment, with the Port of Oakland claiming that 55,000 Bay Area jobs are generated by its 700-person operation.

“We’re anticipating anywhere between 5 and 10 percent growth in loaded-container volume in 2010,” Port spokesman Roberto Bernardo said. “This is very important because it translates into more local jobs and economic stimulus.”

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