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Galloping automation at the heart of Canadian west coast dock dispute

CANADIAN west coast dockers have withdrawn their threat to strike, but will go slow instead, refusing overtime and plan to take 'other measures', reports New York's FreightWaves

Galloping automation at the heart of Canadian west coast dock dispute

CANADIAN west coast dockers have withdrawn their threat to strike, but will go slow instead, refusing overtime and plan to take 'other measures', reports New York's FreightWaves

09 June 2019 - 19:00

CANADIAN west coast dockers have withdrawn their threat to strike, but will go slow instead, refusing overtime and plan to take 'other measures', reports New York's FreightWaves.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) said the action was prompted by concerns over automation at the ports 'and the potential devastation to our communities'.



The problem is semi-automated Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project at the Port of Vancouver, the US$2 billion project that will be 25 per cent bigger than the existing Roberts Bank GCT Deltaport.



Once all phases are done, Roberts Bank Terminal 2 would add 2.4 million TEU, leaving only 600,000 TEU for the rest of the Port of Vancouver.



The current technology includes automated stacking cranes and automated guided vehicles. Both are being used at Long Beach, which is known for being one of the most automated on the west coast.



Other methods include automated straddle carriers, which Maersk's APM Terminals subsidiary wants to test at its Los Angeles terminal.



The ILWU wants Canadian regulators to limit on how much can be automated. Citing a report from consulting firm McKinsey the union says the reduction in labour costs from automation also means lower productivity.



'In many cases, after significant investment, automated terminal operations have failed to achieve the promised improvements to productivity,' said Local 502 president Tom Doran. 'In fact, many terminal operations that have not automated have better productivity.'



Roberts Bank 2 is expected to employ up to 1,500 once completed. But Local 502 is concerned that automation will keep a lid on those jobs or eventually reduce them altogether.



'For every one of the 60 automated guided vehicles that could be deployed at any given shift at Long Beach Container Terminals, those are 60 jobs that are gone.'


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