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West Coast Ports Plan Robot Replacement of Human Workers
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September 20, 2014, 07:32 PM
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When globalization was being pitched some years back by economic elites, they admitted outsourcing would send millions of jobs overseas to cheap-labor nations like Red China, but at least there will be lots of jobs in port cities where the billions of dollars in goods are received.

But modern automation and robots are changing that source of employment, as in so many others. Port operators look to the new smart machines to reduce costs by replacing human workers.

The blurb for the following video notes, Automated ports and container terminals use robotics like automated guided vehicles (AGVs), automated stacking cranes, automatic gantry systems, and automatic shuttles and elevators.

Below, the Port of Oakland, which has been losing money in recent years and has already reduced its workforce substantially.

This process of downsizing via automation, robots and computers is occurring throughout the economy. In fact, about 47 percent of total US employment is at risk according to a 2013 Oxford University study, The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?

America certainly does not need to import millions of immigrant workers based on the false premise that a future labor shortage is looming because of boomer retirement, pushed energetically by amnesty huckster Rep Paul Ryan. An amnesty for 11+ million illegal aliens is just the beginning: increasing legal immigration is a top priority for business and left elites, shown by the Senate bills doubling of legal immigrants.

Given the robotic revolution that has just begun, the correct number of immigrants is ZERO.

Port labor talks turn on effects of automation, The Columbian, September 20, 2014

LOS ANGELES — West Coast shippers and dockworkers are struggling to reach a labor agreement as terminal operators replace as many as half of laborers at some ports with robots in the largest technological change in half a century.

The two sides are discussing how to retrain and preserve jobs for dockworkers as automation reduces the number of positions at one Los Angeles terminal by 40 to 50 percent after changes are completed in 2016, according to a Harbor Department report released in April.

In the U.S., the extent to which automation of container terminals affects the number of longshoremens jobs depends on negotiations between the employers and unions, Neil Davidson, a senior analyst at Drewry Maritime Research in London, said by email. Employers arent simply free to decide to reduce jobs. In addition, it depends on the nature of the automation.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association are negotiating a new contract for 20,000 West Coast dockworkers, more than two months after a six-year agreement expired. A strike or lockout could cost the U.S. economy $2 billion a day, according to the National Retail Federation and National Association of Manufacturers.

In addition to automation, the two sides are discussing salaries and work rules. They resolved the issue of health-care expenses, they said in August without revealing details.

Terminal operators at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the largest U.S. port complex, are installing equipment that moves containers from ships to shore cranes and trucks with minimal human labor. The first large-scale automation project is scheduled to be complete at a TraPac Inc. terminal at the Port of Los Angeles in 2016. In neighboring Long Beach, Orient Overseas Container Line Asia Pacific is adding robots as part of a $1.3 billion project to upgrade two container terminals by 2019.

New technology is a fact of life, said Craig Merrilees, a spokesman for the union. The best approach is for workers and management to agree on terms that are fair and beneficial for all involved. That approach was successful when containers were introduced on the waterfront over 50 years ago, and it remains the best approach today.

Wade Gates, a spokesman for the Pacific Maritime Association, representing shippers, declined to comment on the talks or the role of automation.

TraPacs project will be the first fully automated port terminal on the West Coast, according to a September 2013 report to Los Angeles port commissioners. APM Terminals North America opened the first automated terminal in the U.S. in 2007, consisting of 30 remote-operated cranes at the Port of Virginia.

The 27 West Coast ports have come under increasing pressure from competitors in Texas and on the East Coast. In 2013, West Coast ports handled 43.5 percent of container cargo in the U.S., down from 50 percent in 2002, the Pacific Maritime Association said in a report this year. The expansion of the Panama Canal in 2015 will make it easier for cargo to and from Asia to bypass the West Coast in favor of Gulf Coast or Atlantic ports.

Staying competitive
Against that backdrop, some allies of the dockworker union said automation is needed to keep West Coast ports from losing cargo to others, even at the cost of some jobs.

If the port doesnt automate, it will not be competitive, said Branimir Kvartuc, spokesman for Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the port area and was backed by the presidents of two longshore union locals in his 2011 campaign. If its not competitive, its going to lose jobs anyway because of cargo diversion.

Union and management havent estimated potential job losses from automation. The technology at TraPacs terminal at the Port of Los Angeles is likely to reduce the number of workers needed per crane by about 53 percent, and at transtainers — the hoisting devices for loading and unloading cargo from rail cars or trucks — by 85 percent, according to the Los Angeles Harbor Department report.

Because part of TraPacs terminal will be staffed conventionally, total job losses will equate to 40 percent to 50 percent of the 400-person workforce, the report said.