- The Port of Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners approved a coastal development permit (CDP) allowing APM Terminals to begin automating aspects of its operation with automated straddle carriers. The board voted on an appeal filed by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) who hoped to stop the permit. The appeal was denied with a vote of 3-2 in front of a packed audience of union workers who turned their back on board members who supported the permit and gave a standing ovation to ones who voiced opposition.
- The automation project is still not a guarantee, though, as City Councilman Joe Buscaino plans to challenge the permit through a process known as "asserting jurisdiction." Buscaino plans to bring up the documentation to make this happen at Friday's Trade, Travel and Tourism Committee meeting with the goal of getting it on the agenda for the full council by next week, a spokesperson for Buscaino told Supply Chain Dive after the vote.
- Multiple board members, including those who voted to allow the permit to move forward, said the port should begin studying the impacts of automation more closely to better understand how it will shape the freight hub's operations. "It isn't just one terminal, we have a lot of them," Commissioner Lucia Moreno-Linares said during Thursday's hearing. "We cannot ignore the future. We don't have to wait for the future to hit us in the head, we can take steps to be prepared."
This morning the Harbor Commission voted 3-2 in favor of moving the automation item forward. As I have stated before, I will be asserting the City Council's jurisdiction over this item and will bring it before the full Council for a vote. #ILWUStrong pic.twitter.com/1NSWAQzouP— Joe Buscaino (@JoeBuscaino) June 20, 2019
Commissioners Anthony Pirozzi and Diane Middleton voted against the permit, saying it was incomplete and thus noncompliant with the Port Master Plan. Middleton took this further to say it was the commissioner's job as outlined by the Port Master Plan to consider the economic impact of their decisions.
Jaime Lee, the president of the Board of Harbor Commissioners, said the permit was not incomplete. "There is no requirement for the CDP to check every box and fill every line," Lee said.
There are also no requirements for job impact, Lee said, to which a member of the ILWU crowd shouted, "she doesn't care about us."
|Commissioner||Vote on appeal|
|President Jaime Lee||No|
APM Terminals North America CEO Wim Lagaay said the company welcomed the decision by the commission.
"By continuing to invest in the Port of Los Angeles infrastructure and productivity, and working closely with the ILWU, we will be able to remain competitive, creating new highly-skilled jobs and business, and driving new economic growth for the Southern California port community while meeting the emissions requirements of the Clean Air Action Plan almost a decade before the regulations require," Lagaay said in a statement emailed to Supply Chain Dive.
On Nov. 5, 2018, APM Terminals applied for a permit with the Harbor Department for seaside development, which must be approved given its proximity to the coastal zone. The port's executive director approved the permit, but the ILWU filed an appeal at the Feb. 21, 2019 board meeting to have this decision overturned. Yesterday's vote means it will not be overturned unless done so by the City Council.
This permit would allow APM Terminals to begin some infrastructure upgrades required to operate the automated straddle carriers, including the installation of WiFi antennas, reefer racks, traffic barriers and fencing, according to a staff report on the appeal.
If the project is not held up by City Council, APM's next steps will be to prepare 100 acres of the container yard for electrification. This would be fenced off to ensure it would not disrupt terminal operations. The first six new self-guided automated straddle carriers arrive in July for testing. APM Spokesperson Tom Boyd said there would be "no impact to the manning levels at Pier 400 for the next 12 months."