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PORT OF LOS ANGELES: Maersk gets go-ahead to bring automation in despite ILWU concerns

PortandTerminal.com, July 12, 2019

The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners voted Thursday to allow the biggest tenant at the Port of Los Angeles, shipping company Maersk, to bring in automated electric-powered cargo handlers.

LOS ANGELES – The vote marks the end of a 16-month permitting process APM went through at the Port of Los Angeles to install electric charging stations, fencing, scaffolding and antennas. The infrastructure is needed to support up to 130 hybrid-electric automated straddle carriers, which will be used to bring containers off the docks at APM’s Pier 400 facility to trucks and on-dock rail.

Maersk argues that the 130 unmanned vehicles and related infrastructure it planned to install would ensure that the Los Angeles port stays competitive with East Coast and Gulf Coast facilities, which have captured a growing share of the market in recent years.

Maersk wins approval on Pier 400 automation project at Port of Los Angeles

During the heated board meeting, members of a local chapter of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union expressed their concern over losing jobs to automation.

“Robots don’t pay taxes. Robots don’t vote”

Hundreds of union dockworkers have protested for months against the permit, arguing it will cost them their jobs.

The longshoremen’s union has appealed the move with the backing of local politicians.

L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn also attended the meeting and spoke against the decision. “It is ILWU that moves cargo, not robots,” said Hahn.

A spokesperson for Maersk says automation will benefit the community.

“We firmly support the Clean Air Action plan, the environmental goals of the San Pedro community,” said spokesperson Peter Jabbour at the meeting. “And we believe the permit will allow us to achieve the environmental goals of the port without sacrificing the competitiveness of the port.”

It is ILWU that moves cargo, not robots,

The company says the automation equipment is already in containers heading for the Port of Los Angeles and should arrive in a few weeks.

Maersk has declined to say how many jobs would be affected by replacing current cargo carriers with unmanned vehicles. Nor has the company elaborated on what other jobs at its terminal are likely to be automated.

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