City to study potential impact of automation at the Port of Long Beach

The City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to move forward with a study to determine the economic impact of future automation at the Port of Long Beach.

Automation has become a major topic of concern as the twin ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles move forward with modernization.

Some terminals, including the TraPac in the Port of Los Angeles and the Long Beach Container Terminal, already have automated equipment.

Plans for automation have been met with pushback from local unions concerned about the impact to regional jobs. Last month, the longshore union and APM Terminals, owned by shipping giant Maersk, struck a deal over driverless electric cargo handlers at the Port of Los Angeles after a months-long battle.

Speaking on Tuesday, 9th District Council member Rex Richardson, who proposed the study, said it’s important to have more information on the economic impact to working families in the region. 

“We want make sure that whatever we do, it’s the best outcome for the people of Long Beach,” he said.

Mayor Robert Garcia said automation is a key issue, not just in Long Beach, but across the country. The Port of Long Beach employs about 1 in 5 workers in the city. Together, the twin ports employ about 3 million people across the U.S.

“These are good paying jobs with benefits,” Garcia said. “They’re jobs that are critical for supporting our middle class.”

The city will work with the Harbor Department to conduct an economic impact analysis. The report is due back within 120 days.

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Kelly Puente is a general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. Her prolific reporting has taken her all over Southern California—even to the small Catalina Island town of Two Harbors. She is a Tiki mug collector and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].