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Green Tech Upgrade Puts Jobs at Risk in California Port

Green Tech Upgrade Puts Jobs at Risk in California Port

In a significant move towards achieving zero emissions and embracing green technology, a port terminal in Long Beach, California, has received a $30 million grant from U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration. The grant aims to electrify tractors used in the terminal’s operations, making it the world’s first zero-emissions facility. However, human drivers must operate the new equipment. That will ensure the preservation of jobs amidst increasing automation.

A Path to Emission-Free Operations

The Long Beach Container Terminal is set to become America’s most automated port terminal. It will boast over 100 automated vehicles and 70 driverless container-stacking cranes. By 2030, the terminal aims to be completely emissions-free. The transportation sector, being the largest contributor to climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, is in dire need of such transformations.

Unions Advocate for Job Security

Union leaders have raised concerns about potential job losses due to increasing automation. However, they have found an ally in the White House. The Biden administration emphasizes the importance of prioritizing jobs when adopting green technology. The $30 million grant is only a fraction of the terminal’s $2.5 billion modernization program. But unions hope that such investments will underscore the significance of job preservation during this period of energy transition.

Support from the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department, representing railroad and airline workers, further highlights the focus on workforce aspects amidst technological change. The department’s President, Greg Regan, believes that recent years have brought a greater recognition of the need to consider the workforce’s well-being during these transitions. Unions have also voiced concerns about potential shifts in political leadership and its impact on worker-friendly policies.

Funding and Job Security Requirements

The $30 million grant for the Long Beach terminal’s electric tractors is part of the 2022 Port Infrastructure Development Program, amounting to $684 million. The program funds projects focused on enhancing cargo efficiency and reducing emissions. Crucially, these efforts must not lead to a net job loss or a reduction in job quality.

Combining Electric Power and Automation

The Long Beach terminal’s redevelopment, following its purchase by the asset management unit of Australia’s Macquarie Group Ltd, has relied on both electric power and automated equipment. This comprehensive approach has resulted in significant improvements. The new facility handles three times the previous volume while reducing emissions by 90%. Moreover, truckers now spend less time collecting cargo, enhancing efficiency and reducing diesel vehicle idle time.

Navigating the Impact on Jobs

Although the terminal has introduced automated systems, it has simultaneously maintained the involvement of union members in crucial aspects of operations. Union workers still secure containers on vessels. They will also operate ship and rail cranes, and ferry containers to and from trains. While some erosion of typical longshore jobs has occurred, the terminal has committed to creating new jobs as part of the redevelopment.

Balancing Automation and Productivity

Studies conducted by the International Transport Forum (ITF) and consultancy McKinsey & Co have shed light on the impact of automation on productivity. ITF’s 2021 report indicates that only 4% of global container terminal capacity comes from partially automated facilities. The report also reveals that fixed automated systems may not be as productive as labor-based operations. That is due to limitations in adapting to cargo fluctuations and higher equipment costs.

Examining Job Figures

Reports commissioned by different entities have presented varying statistics regarding job figures at the Long Beach terminal. A report supported by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) stated that the terminal had 392 fewer jobs in 2020 and 2021 due to automation. In contrast, a report commissioned by the Pacific Maritime Association employer group claimed that paid hours at the automated Long Beach terminal and another in Los Angeles grew 31.5% from 2015 to 2021, surpassing unautomated terminals.

Moving Towards a Green Future

As the Long Beach port terminal embraces green technology, the electrification of tractors and the commitment to job preservation signal a positive step forward. Balancing automation and job security is crucial during this period of energy transition. With ongoing labor talks and increasing support from the Biden administration, unions and workers are hopeful for a future that combines environmental sustainability with equitable employment opportunities.

The post Green Tech Upgrade Puts Jobs at Risk in California Port appeared first on FinanceBrokerage.

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