Sunday, May 15, 2016

How long will Seattle support a tradition of subsidizing Pollution and Longshoreman, what is California doing about it?

As consumers demand lower prices for goods, and less polluting ways to transport people or goods, look for those demands to join forces at ports worldwide. Currently, and not coincidentally, the Port of Seattle and the Northwest Port Alliance is working on plans to modernize Seattle's Terminal 5 to be "more efficient" and "less polluting."

TraPac LLC's Los Angeles marine-cargo facility demonstrates how autonomous technology could revolutionize freight transport as much as or more than personal travel. TraPac's equipment doubles the speed of loading and unloading ships, saving money and boosting profits. Their impact is rivaling that of containerization, which eliminated most manual sorting and warehousing on docks after World War II.

"Self-driving won't just rebuild the current freight system, it will create a whole new way of thinking about it,'' said Larry Burns, a former research and development chief at General Motors Co. and now a consultant at Alphabet Inc.'s Google unit.

"It will happen sooner with goods movements than with personal transportation, because the economics are crystal clear.''

Commercial shipments currently produce half the state's toxic diesel-soot emissions.

More automation also could help Governor Jerry Brown achieve his goal of zero-emission freight movement in California. Commercial shipments currently produce half the state's toxic diesel-soot emissions and 45 percent of the nitrogen oxide that plague Los Angeles with the nation's worst smog. In Long Beach, where most residents are Hispanic, black or Asian, an estimated 15 percent of the children have asthma, six percentage points higher than the national average, according to a community coalition report.

The state's Air Resources Board is scheduled to release a draft Sustainable Freight action plan on April 29. It will encompass new regulations on vehicles and fuels, as well as subsidies for new infrastructure, communications and operating procedures, according to ARB Chairman Mary Nichols.

Brown wants 100,000 zero-emission freight-hauling machines in California by 2030, according to recent ARB workshop presentations. These could include self-driving cranes and carriers like those at TraPac. Brown also could subsidize fuel-saving alternatives, such as semi-autonomous trucks, which were recently tested in Europe. If they're clean enough, he may give them preferential access to freeways and docks. He also may promote Uber-like services to find loads for empty or half-empty trucks and is considering a per-container cap on pollutants and greenhouse gases at each terminal.
… (Bloomberg news)

Driverless cars may be the popular thing in the news but driverless and electric/battery powered container movement reduces pollution and increases efficiency.
So, how's the partnership with the Longshoreman's Union going?

To take full advantage of the new equipment, TraPac President Frank Pisano needs to help speed containers away from the docks, so he's implementing an appointment system for truckers. They often arrive unannounced and then wait as port employees scout around for their container. This waiting is becoming intolerable for drivers as congestion grows. By 2040, regional container traffic could almost triple to 41.1 million 20-foot equivalent units from 15.3 million last year, according to a recent forecast commissioned by the ports.

As they grapple with this onslaught, the California facilities lag far behind some counterparts in adopting autonomous technology. Since 1993, Rotterdam has used precursors to the self-driving equipment Pisano is installing. Europe's largest facility, it now has five fully automated deep-sea terminals.

At Los Angeles and Long Beach, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union refused to formally accept self-driving and automated technologies until 2008. Since then, none of the ILWU's 14,000 full-time West Coast dock members have lost jobs, but 10,000 contingent workers are called less often, said Jim McKenna, president of the Pacific Maritime Association, an employer group. He declined to say how much less. But it's enough that ILWU leaders are no more enthusiastic about having Jerry Brown promote autonomous driving in the name of clean air today, as they were about having corporations promote containerization in the name of efficiency half a century ago.

"If I have to lose a year or two at the end of my time in this world so I can send my kid to school, I have no problem with that,'' said Mondo Porras, vice president of ILWU Local 13 in San Pedro.

If Brown wants to clean the air by making ports more efficient, Porras said, he should stop Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other retailers from using them as rent-free storage lots.

Such finger-pointing is inevitable, said Jon Slangerup, chief executive of the Port of Long Beach, because no single entity has door-to-door responsibility for freight that's passing through—like an airport with no air-traffic control system.

With his Sustainable Freight plan, Brown is offering himself as the controller the ports need. And he's trying to harness the increased efficiency of self-driving to encourage everyone—shippers, terminal operators, union workers and truckers—to go along.

"Efficiency and the environment go hand in hand,'' Slangerup said. "They're two sides of the same coin.''

On This Waterfront, Robot Longshoremen Are the New Contenders - John Lipper - Bloomberg News. April 24, 2016 — 9:01 PM PDT Updated on April 25, 2016 — 11:45 AM PDT

Expect the same foot dragging from the ILWU in Seattle! and their political enablers. A couple extra years of West Seattle residents breathing in exhaust from idling trucks waiting to load/unload and ships billowing pollution into the air is a perfectly acceptable exchange for the Port's welfare workers.

Tax subsidized jobs are more important to the ILWU than the health and wellbeing of the citizens. How long will the Seattle City Council continue to embrace this historical "tradition"?

An interesting thing about this story is that Bloomberg News wrote and posted the article on April 24th, a week before the arena vote. The Seattle Times didn't repeat it until 10-days later, after the May 2nd arena vote, on May 14th.
The Seattle Times contributions to the story were changing the headline from, On This Waterfront, Robot Longshoremen Are the New Contenders, to, Self-driving robots are the new longshoremen on L.A. waterfront. Also, this quote from the Northwest Seaport Alliance:

In Seattle and Tacoma, port officials are planning a new operations center that includes a goal of clean-energy productivity, but none of the companies working there have plans to introduce automated carriers anytime soon.

"I think the industry is probably moving in that direction, but we have yet to see any of that up here," said Tara Mattina, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Seaport Alliance, which manages the Seattle and Tacoma ports. "At this point it's still done by humans — really highly skilled humans, I would say."
Self-driving robots are the new longshoremen on L.A. waterfront - Seattle Times, 5/14/2016

Did the story arrive from LA by truck or by ship? Seriously, 10-days? Were the Seattle Times not following west coast port news? Were they not interested in repeating it before the arena vote on 5/2/2016? Do they have something to hide?

I've reached out to the Port of Seattle and the Northwest Seaport Alliance to see if there was a written exchange between them and the Seattle Times.

Have a great day,
Mike Baker
Seattle, Wa

Follow me here: @TweetMrBaker