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Port Automation Vote Goes To Los Angeles City Council

Port Automation Vote

Friday, June 28 the Los Angeles City Council voted on the issue of automation in the Port of Los Angeles.  The topic is a controversial one which is why the city council is holding the vote.  The implementation of automation will lower labor requirements for the port by up to 70%.  Furthermore, labor at the port currently consists of nearly 50% of the port’s costs.  Not only will this save on labor costs, but also will save on the facility’s energy and maintenance costs.  The Board of Harbor Commissioners plans to do this via the implementation of hybrid/electric motors.

Prior to the vote being brought to the Los Angeles City Council, the Port of Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners approved a permit to begin development of automated straddle carriers.  The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) presented an appeal to stop the permit from approval.  The appeal was denied in a 3-2 vote.  Those who voted against the plan stated it is incomplete and noncompliant with the Port Master Plan due to the economic impact of the plan not being “fully thought out”.

Furthermore, the Los Angeles City Council voted to veto the construction permit of the automation project in a 12-0 vote.  According to the president of ILWU Local 13, the union seeks to continue negotiations with the Port of Los Angeles to find a solution to reduce the number of job losses that normally come out of the implementation of automation.

Impacts of Port Automation

Forecasts suggest that the implementation of automation at the Port of Los Angeles will double operations from 5,000 containers per acre to nearly 10,000 containers per acre.  Furthermore, the Port of New York and New Jersey is a good example of the impact of port automation on employment.  In 1956 the port employed 35,000 managing 35 million metric tons of cargo, but in 2011 the port employed 3,500 managing 79 million metric tons of cargo.

The Los Angeles City Council vetoed the permit in a landslide vote.  City council members hope the Board of Harbor Commissioners bring to the table a proposition that minimizes the impact on port jobs.  Furthermore, the 2019 State of Logistics Report specifies that within the next 3 years 5G mobile broadband will be implemented into the supply chain.  5G mobile broadband allows for more data to transfer more quickly between networks.  Therefore, the maritime consulting firm, SeaIntelligence, predicts that nearly 600,000 shipping containers will have real-time tracking implemented by 2025.

Knowing the above facts helps paint a picture of the motives behind the port automation push.  The Port of Los Angeles is pushing for automation to maintain market share in the coming years.  The higher the throughput of container traffic, the greater the market share.

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