Terminal Automation in Southern California: Implications for Growth, Jobs, and the Future Competitiveness of West Coast Ports

Automation will enable West Coast ports to remain competitive, facilitate growth in both cargo and jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas-emissions, according to a new study by 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.

The study, which analyzes new public and previously unpublished data, was commissioned by the Pacific Maritime Association during the Covid-19 pandemic, when a surge of Asian imports exposed severe shortcomings in the U.S.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.

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