APMT had requested a permit to make changes at its Pier 400 terminal under the California Environmental Quality Act. The Port of Los Angeles staff found the changes APMT is planning involve minimal change in land and water use and advance the port’s goals of optimizing land use and increasing cargo terminal efficiency.
In its 2008 contract, the ILWU agreed to let employers automate container terminals.
Both the TraPac Terminal in the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach Container Terminal in the Port of Long Beach’s “Middle Harbor” operate highly automated facilities, but the ILWU appears to be trying to draw a line in the sand and prevent or slow further automation of container terminals in Southern California.
About 2,000 union members and their supporters turned out for a hearing last month at which the board heard testimony from dozens of union members and community members opposed to APMT’s plan, which would involve using automated straddle carriers to replace the drivers and trucks that currently move containers between ship-to-shore cranes and container stacks and move containers from those stacks onto the drayage trucks that move containers in and out of the port.
APMT said there is no legal basis for the ILWU appeal as there is nothing adverse to the environment in the infrastructure improvements it is proposing.
Initially, however, APMT just wants to test the equipment in a small section of the terminal.
APMT said the new facility would remove workers from dangerous areas in the terminal and reduce the amount of time drayage truckers spend waiting to receive and drop off containers.
Port consultant John Martin said cargo-handling charges through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are 90 percent to 165 percent higher than those of competing ports.
A report prepared by Martin, Larry Henry of ContainerTrac Inc. and Michael Nacht of the University of California, Berkeley for the Pacific Maritime Association said that the cost of moving a container through the two Southern California ports is $540 compared to $310 for North Atlantic ports, $300 for Gulf ports and $285 for ports in the South Atlantic.
“Obviously, such cost impacts, without any way to offset such cost, will have a major impact on the amount of discretionary cargo through the L.A./LB ports,” the report said.
It said that the amount of discretionary cargo imported into the U.S. from Asia that moves through Los Angeles and Long Beach has declined significantly in the past two decades, from 56 percent in 2003 to 46 percent in 2018, while the share handled by East and Gulf Coast ports has climbed from 27 percent to 41 percent, with the share handled by ports in Seattle and Tacoma also declining from 17 to 13 percent. (Their report did not look at the growing volume of Asian imports handled by the Canadian ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert.)
The report said continuing loss of discretionary cargo would ripple through the entire supply chain, affecting trucking, railroads, warehousing, distribution, importers and exporters.
Erosion in market share would “go far beyond an economic hit to the state, regional and local economies; losing share can have a major negative impact on the environmental and public health goals sought for the ports and their adjacent communities. Continued loss of market share may jeopardize the resources needed to invest in electronic equipment that helps to improve sustainability through reduced turn times, reduced truck idling, and eliminating terminal equipment that runs on diesel.”