Automation at marine terminals in Los Angeles and Long Beach has increased paid hours for employees by expanding terminal capacity and improving cargo velocity, reports a new study commissioned by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) representing maritime employers at the West Coast ports.

The report, released ahead of labor negotiations which are due to begin on May 12 in San Francisco, has drawn criticism from the International Longshore Warehouse Union (ILWU).

Michael Nacht, a professor of public policy at University of California at Berkeley and former US assistant secretary of defense, who prepared the report co-authored by Larry Henry, founder of ContainerTrac, said that automation has allowed the Long Beach and Los Angeles terminals to process containers significantly faster than conventional terminals

Container throughput per acre at the automated terminals in Southern California is 44% higher than at the manually operated terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach, the study revealed.

The study also showed that paid hours at the automated terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have increased 31.5% since 2015, over double the rate of the other, non-automated terminals at the same ports while ILWU’s registered workforce in Los Angeles and Long Beach grew by 11.2%, compared to 8.4% for the other 27 West Coast ports.

However, ILWU Coast Committeeman Frank Ponce De Leon said automation has destroyed longshore jobs and called the report “self-serving”. “Container volume has increased at the automated terminals, but this has been at the expense of other terminals that have had an offsetting drop in container volumes,” he said in a statement to

The bottom line is that automation has destroyed longshore jobs. We haven’t seen an overall increase in productivity at the ports, just a shell game to mask the human cost of job destruction,” Ponce De Leon added.

Source: Journal of Commerce