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ILWU fights grant funding for automated equipment

The ILWU is campaigning to prohibit terminal operators in Washington State putting funding under emissions reductions schemes towards the purchase of automated equipment. 

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The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) is campaigning to see a bill passed in Washington State that would prohibit funds available to ports for the purchase of zero or near zero emissions equipment from being used to purchase fully automated container handling equipment.


The ILWU is campaigning to see the bill passed “to help stop automated machinery from replacing longshore workers at the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle.” There is currently a new terminal in Seattle (Terminal-5) under construction.


Terminal operators in Washington state have the same rights to introduce automated technology as any other west coast terminal under the ILWU contract. Terminal automation is already well established in Los Angeles and Long Beach, but the ILWU does not want to see public funding help finance that transition elsewhere. “What this bill will accomplish is ban any public moneys from purchasing automated container handling equipment (ie. Robots to do your job),” ILWU leaders said in a campaign to raise support for the legislation.


Terminal specific agreements under the two main port labour contracts in the US have in some cases allowed remote controlled equipment, which is not technically "fully automated" by virtue of having a remote control operator. The bill now before the Washington Senate, however, would avoid any debate about what is or is not fully automated. It states that “"Fully automated marine container cargo handling equipment" means equipment that is remotely operated or remotely monitored, with or without the exercise of human intervention or control”.



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