OODA Loop – All Autonomous: The Workforce and the Future of Automated Port Terminals

In a series of articles titled All autonomous, wWe explore automation in all of its technological forms, including legacy working assumptions about the term itself. We started the series in June at the forefront of autonomous vehicles, with a depiction of the first autonomous ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. But autonomy is not just about the future of the car and personal mobility, but includes a broad autonomous future in areas such as Security Automation, Automation and Labor, Automating – or augmenting – the workforce, and Automation of AI/machine learning training models and industry standardization.

We now turn to the familiar heavy industrial history of automation and the global operations of port terminals, which have been at the forefront of the tensions between labour, industry and automation in the United States for decades. Port automation is also prescient in the context of recent pandemic-induced supply chain bottlenecks, which have weighed on port operations globally: “Terminal automation has helped to relieve severe supply chain congestion at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach by dramatically accelerating the increase in terminal capacity while generating longshoring jobs much faster than conventional terminals, according to a groundbreaking new study on port automation. (1)

“The study” analyzes new public and unpublished data [and] was commissioned by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) during the Covid-19 pandemic – when an increase in Asian imports revealed serious shortcomings in the US supply chain. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which handle 40% of containerized imports from Asia, have borne the brunt of this influx. They handled record levels of cargo, but backlogs – at times more than 100 vessels anchored offshore awaiting berths – underscored the need for the nation’s largest port complex to improve efficiency and productivity of the terminal in order to accommodate growing container volumes and prevent the diversion of cargo to the East Coast. and Gulf Coast ports. (3) The study “analyzed automated terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – the two busiest in the nation – and found that cargo handling was accelerated, terminal capacity was expanded, and Skidding work was generated there “significantly faster” than at conventional terminals. (2)

For the past 100 years, the workforce has always operated on the assumption that automation would help eliminate jobs and the number of highly skilled, well-paid (usually unionized) workers working in operations. port terminals. The authors, Dr. Michael Nacht, professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and former Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Larry Henry, founder of ContainerTrac, Inc. in the report, Terminal Automation in Southern California, place ” Automation in a Broad Context” based on the attention automation has recently garnered, while dispelling historical assumptions about the role of automation in eliminating jobs and capturing some of the motivations behind the research and OODA Loop’s analysis on the subject:

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