Automation at the Port of Los Angeles

Container ships at the port of Los Angeles

Recent events in the ongoing dispute regarding automation and the use of robots at the Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest shipping terminal, continue to aggravate city officials, dockworkers, and shipping executives. The Los Angeles City Council unanimously vetoed a permit proposed by the LA Board of Harbor Commissioners that would allow the use of automated equipment.

The proposed automation plans for the Port of Los Angeles would authorize Maersk (the world’s biggest container shipping company) to implement numerous automated cargo carriers to transfer shipping containers between ships and trucks at their APM terminal. Although the city council is attempting to strike down these plans, its veto might not hold much power, as Maersk officials insist they are contractually permitted to use automated equipment without the need for a city permit or any port or state approval. The veto sends the discussion back to the LA Board of Harbor Commissioners, and in the meantime, officials at APM Terminals are continuing with plans to bring automation to the port—the first shipment of 45-foot-tall robotic machines is already en route from Poland and is expected to arrive later this month.

About the Automated Machinery

Maersk’s goal is to use automated machinery to cut labor costs and remain competitive with East and Gulf Coast ports. Automated carriers are able to operate 24 hours a day, whereas stevedore shifts can only cover 16 hours of labor each day (and each worker must be compensated for their time). Automated equipment also reduces costs by improving transportation times: The automated carriers would reduce the average daily turnaround time from 105 minutes to 35 minutes for over 4,000 trucks that enter the terminal.

Robots Replacing Jobs at the Port of Los Angeles

The opposition to the proposed automation is primarily due to the consequent decrease in jobs. Thousands of port employees and dockworkers have marched at the Port of Los Angeles to protest automation. Eleven thousand residents of the city also signed petitions in hopes of halting the plans. International Longshore and Warehouse Union 13, which represents thousands of dockworkers at the port, believes the proposed plans could result in a loss of 500 to 700 job assignments each day.

Without implementing automation, the costs of operations and turnaround time will continue to increase, creating a problem for both dockworkers and the shipping and logistics industry. If the Port of Los Angeles does not modernize its approach, manufacturers could be tempted to explore options at other ports with lower prices and expedited processes. Automation isn’t necessarily the only solution, though—a reduction in shipments to the port could drive logistics professionals to pursue other strategies for improving their margins, such as investing in more efficient equipment, creating a streamlined approach to cargo transportation, or hiring around-the-clock workers to keep up with demand.

Global Shipping’s Ocean Freight Transportation Services

We’re still waiting to see whether or not automation will become a mainstay at the Port of Los Angeles, but in the meantime, Global Shipping is here to facilitate maritime shipping efficiently. Our container loading and unloading service ensures that your containers and their contents are handled safely when their carrier vessels arrive at and depart from the port. Contact us today to learn more about how our ocean freight services can take the hassle out of shipping to the Port of Los Angeles.

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