ArchiveDisruptive TechnologyOODA Original

Autonomous Everything: The Workforce and The Future of Automated Port Terminals

In a series of posts entitled Autonomous Everything, we are exploring automation in all its technological forms, including legacy working assumptions about the term itself.  We began the series in June at the bleeding edge of autonomous vehicles, with a description of the first autonomous ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. But autonomy is not just for the future of the car and personal mobility but includes a broad autonomous future in areas such as Security Automation, Automation and the Workforce, Automation – or Augmentation – of the workforce, and Automation of AI/Machine Learning Training Models and Industry Standardization. 

We now tack to the familiar heavy industrial history of automation and global shipping port terminal operations, which have been the frontline in the tensions between labor, industry, and automation in the U.S. for decades.  Port automation is also prescient in the context of the recent pandemic-induced supply chain bottlenecks, which strained port operations globally:  “Terminal automation has helped to relieve severe supply chain congestion at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach by substantially accelerating cargo handling and expanding terminal capacity while generating longshore work significantly faster than conventional terminals, according to a groundbreaking new study on port automation.” (1)

“The study “analyzes new public and previously unpublished data [and] was commissioned by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) during the Covid-19 pandemic – when a surge of Asian imports exposed severe shortcomings in the U.S. supply chain. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which process 40% of containerized imports from Asia, bore the brunt of this influx. They handled record levels of cargo, but backlogs – at times more than 100 ships anchored offshore awaiting berths – underscored the need for the country’s largest port complex to enhance terminal efficiency and productivity to accommodate growing container volumes and stanch the diversion of cargo to 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 longshore work was generated “significantly faster” there than at conventional terminals.” (2)

Over the last 100 years, labor has always operated on the assumption that automation would contribute to the elimination of jobs and the number of (generally unionized) highly skilled, high-wage laborers working in port terminal operations.   Authors Dr. Michael Nacht, Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and former Assistant 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 garnered recently, while also dispelling historical assumptions about the role of automation in job elimination and capturing some of the motivations behind OODA Loop research and analysis on the topic:

To continue reading please consider joining as either a subscriber or full member to support our continued research and analysis. For more on benefits of membership see below.

Want more insight? Log in for the full report

Already a member?  Sign in to your account.

Become A Member

OODA Loop provides actionable intelligence, analysis, and insight on global security, technology, and business issues. Our members are global leaders, technologists, and intelligence and security professionals looking to inform their decision making process to understand and navigate global risks and opportunities.

Members get all site content plus additional Member benefits such as participation in our Monthly meetings, exclusive OODA Unlocked Discounts, discounted training and conference attendance, job opportunities, our Weekly Research Report, and other great benefits. Join Here.

Related Reading:

Explore OODA Research and Analysis

Use OODA Loop to improve your decision making in any competitive endeavor. Explore OODA Loop

Decision Intelligence

The greatest determinant of your success will be the quality of your decisions. We examine frameworks for understanding and reducing risk while enabling opportunities. Topics include Black Swans, Gray Rhinos, Foresight, Strategy, Stratigames, Business Intelligence and Intelligent Enterprises. Leadership in the modern age is also a key topic in this domain. Explore Decision Intelligence

Disruptive/Exponential Technology

We track the rapidly changing world of technology with a focus on what leaders need to know to improve decision-making. The future of tech is being created now and we provide insights that enable optimized action based on the future of tech. We provide deep insights into Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Cloud Computing, Quantum Computing, Security Technology, Space Technology. Explore Disruptive/Exponential Tech

Security and Resiliency

Security and resiliency topics include geopolitical and cyber risk, cyber conflict, cyber diplomacy, cybersecurity, nation state conflict, non-nation state conflict, global health, international crime, supply chain and terrorism. Explore Security and Resiliency

Community

The OODA community includes a broad group of decision-makers, analysts, entrepreneurs, government leaders and tech creators. Interact with and learn from your peers via online monthly meetings, OODA Salons, the OODAcast, in-person conferences and an online forum. For the most sensitive discussions interact with executive leaders via a closed Wickr channel. The community also has access to a member only video library. Explore The OODA Community

Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira is research director at OODA. He is a foresight strategist, creative technologist, and an information communication technology (ICT) and digital media researcher with 20+ years of experience directing public/private partnerships and strategic innovation initiatives.