The Los Angeles Board of Harbour Commissioners voted to allow Maersk to begin using automated cargo handlers at the port, after a contentious four-hour debate, reported Washington, DC's Supply Chain Dive.
That vote came after the Los Angeles City Council, the municipal government that controls America's biggest seaport, vetoed the board's initial decision.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) is opposed to automation efforts at the port, citing the negative impact on jobs. The ILWU plans to appeal the Harbour Commission's decision.
"With this vote, you can give yourselves time to more fully address the negative impacts automation will have on our community," said ILWU Local 13 president Ray Familathe.
"The negative impact automation will have on our local economy. The negative impact automation will have on the workforce that serves our communities."
The Harbour Commission's decision comes on the heels of another recent automation vote when the California Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee approved a bill to give authority over future port automation approvals to the State Lands Commission. The bill will next move on to the Appropriations Committee.
Said Maersk's APM Terminals: "This will allow APM Terminals Pier 400 Los Angeles to introduce electrification for the benefit of our customers, our ILWU partners and the port community."
Despite the political and labour concerns involved, the push for automation at the port, and other ports has steadily advanced over the past year.
As ports look to increase efficiency, lower costs and improve their environmental impact, the benefits of automated terminals are highly attractive. Using robots can reduce labour costs 40-70 per cent while nearly doubling throughput, according to a report from Moody's.