Port Automation

It’s coming to west coast ports, and the unions don’t like it.

The push over the last decade by international maritime ports to fully automate operations has sparked the ire of many US longshoremen whose high-paying jobs and way of life are at stake. The trend also sets up a battle between their unions and companies and governments who see automation as a cleaner, more efficient and more cost-friendly alternative to the current system.

Never mind that west coast ports—three in particular, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Oakland—do 40% of the nation’s (not just the west coast’s) container traffic and so costs there have sharp impact on the nation’s economy.

Never mind that the west coast ports often are subject to expensive longshoremen union work slowdowns.

The Washington Council on International Trade this week released a report that attempted to quantify how severely the [2015] slowdown directly impacted Washington state businesses. That final price tag: $770 million.

Never mind that west coast ports often are subject to even more expensive longshoremen union strikes, including illegal strikes.

Never mind that longshoremen union strikes against west coast ports often turn violent.

The automation will reduce costs—good for the shippers and ultimately for us consumers—and increase profits—which means jobs, albeit different ones and with lags for the different jobs to develop.

And robots don’t do work slowdowns, robots don’t strike, robots don’t get violent when they don’t get their way.

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