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“Robots don’t vote,” says ILWU official. Maersk faces backlash over driverless vehicles at America’s biggest port

PortandTerminal.com, March 23, 2019

Los Angeles, CA – Dockworkers in Los Angeles are making a last stand against the automation of lucrative port jobs, in a backlash that affects a vital link in global trade. Expect to see more of the same as automation roles out across American ports.

We are confident that modernizing (the terminal) will keep the Port of L.A. competitive in an increasingly challenging environment.

The bitter fight over automation at the Port of Los Angeles has mobilized thousands of ILWU dockworkers. Local union officials representing some 12,000 dockworkers are demanding that Maersk abandon a plan to introduce driverless electric cargo trucks.

A 28-day cooling off period now in the works after contentious debate about automation

The project at Maersk’s container terminal has divided key stakeholders at America’s largest port, pitting dock workers and local political leaders against the march of automation and ocean carriers serving the nation’s busiest import gateway.

The divide between the union and Maersk comes as Los Angeles and Long Beach, the busiest ports in the nation, are enjoying record cargo traffic, despite the threat of an escalating trade war with China. The twin ports handle a third of U.S. container traffic but have lost market share to facilities along the Gulf of Mexico and, since the widening of the Panama Canal, along the East Coast.

APM officials decline to say how many jobs will be eliminated if what they call “self-guided container handling equipment” is introduced. Union officials say hundreds are at stake. One in nine jobs in the five-county region is linked to commerce flowing through the port complex, according to port officials.

Two other terminals on San Pedro Bay, at Los Angeles and the port of Long Beach, have already introduced self-driving technology Maersk opened the world’s first fully automated terminal in Rotterdam in 2015.

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