- After a contentious four-hour debate, the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners voted Thursday to allow Maersk, the Port of Los Angeles' biggest client, to begin using automated cargo handlers at the port, according to abc7 news. The vote came after the Los Angeles City Council vetoed the board's initial decision.
- The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) is opposed to automation efforts at the port, citing the negative impact on jobs. "With this vote, you can give yourselves time to more fully address the negative impacts automation will have on our community," Ray Familathe, president of ILWU Local 13 reportedly said at the meeting. "The negative impact automation will have on our local economy. The negative impact automation will have on the workforce that serves our communities."
- The Harbor Commission's decision comes on the heels of another recent automation vote in the state Wednesday when the California Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee approved a bill to give authority over future port automation approvals to the State Lands Commission. The bill will next move on to the Appropriations Committee.
Maersk's APM Terminals division was pleased with the commission's decision. A Maersk spokesperson told Supply Chain Dive in an email: "This will allow APM Terminals Pier 400 Los Angeles to introduce electrification for the benefit of our customers, our ILWU partners and the port community." In this case, electrification refers to the infrastructure of charging stations, fencing and other upgrades at the port to support Maersk's autonomous cargo carriers.
LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who was present at the commission meeting, voiced skepticism about automation's benefits from the port, echoing the union's concerns about jobs. "It is ILWU that moves cargo, not robots," she said, according to abc7 news.
Despite the political and labor concerns involved, the push for automation at the Port of LA, and other ports internationally, has steadily advanced over the past year. As ports look to increase efficiency, lower costs and improve their environmental impact, the benefits of automated terminals are highly attractive. Using robots can reduce labor costs by 40-70% while nearly doubling TEU throughput, according to a report from Moody's.
The ILWU plans to appeal the Harbor Commission's decision, according to abc7 news. A spokesperson for APM Terminals previously told Supply Chain Dive the equipment will arrive at the port later this month.