Pier 400 Automation Appealed; Public Meeting Set for March 21

  • 03/07/2019
  • Terelle Jerricks

By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

The atmosphere outside the Feb. 21 Harbor Commission meeting at Banning’s Landing was fraught with tension.

Following Port Executive Director Gene Seroka’s remarks, the Harbor Commission was set to report on the Level I Coastal Development Permit applications that had been approved by Seroka. APM Terminals’ application to build landside infrastructure to operate automated, battery-operated equipment was the first to be heard.

Local 13 ILWU president Mark Mendoza strode to the speaker’s speakers podium and introduced himself, then deferred to his vice president, Gary Herrera, who said:

“I would like to submit a statement of appeal on Coastal Permit 18-25 APM Terminals installation of Landside infrastructure to Operate Battery-Electric Powered Equipment and we request a promptly held public meeting on the matter.”

Then Mendoza returned to the dais and said, “So if you liked to vote or make a motion, it’s likely I would hold my comments until the public meeting is held.” Mendoza deadpanned. “I think there’s a huge amount of members that are here [who would like to comment on this permit].”

“Huge”  did not understate the turnout. Nearly 100 longshore workers filled the auditorium. Hundreds — an estimated 800 more — waited outside.

The appeal caused the Harbor Commission to schedule a public meeting on APM’s permit application for March 21.

On Jan. 8, APM Terminals submitted a Level I Coastal Development Permit application to do light construction at the terminal. Except the construction was anything but light. It would automate nearly a quarter of APM Terminals — a 440-acre facility — and eliminate longshore jobs once the work is completed. Permits such as these are routine and can be approved by the executive director without the Harbor Commission’s approval. However, these sorts of permits, once agendized, can be appealed.

The publicly financed Pier 400 was once an “energy island”  that housed two major cargo terminals for jet fuel and other hazardous materials, before they were moved away from San Pedro and Wilmington neighborhoods in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The $484 million project was completed in 2004. The completion was first phase coincided with the 2002 longshore worker lockout.

APM Terminals are seeking to install charging stations for their electric-battery-operated equipment and scaffolding to create a racking system by which to transfer refrigerated cargo containers directly from the ship to the docking area. The construction would cost $1.3 million not funded by the POLA.

The permit was placed on the Jan. 24 Harbor Commission meeting agenda but was pulled at the last minute and then agendized for Feb. 21 after the appeal was presented to the commission. This change shows that there is some conflict between the Port’s management and the commission that may only be resolved with the rescheduled hearing. However the one point that seemed to aggravate the dispute was the remark by Maersk representative John Ochs saying that his company “was an American corporation.”

Longshore workers who attended the Jan. 24 said as much, blasting Maersk’s corporate parent as a foreign company willing to displace workers in the name of clean air goals.

“There’s plenty of equipment out there today they can utilize a person to operate that equipment,” said Danny Miranda, President of Foreman’s Local 94. As he and others explained that green technology doesn’t mean eliminating good paying jobs on the waterfront.

“For the terminal operators to use the clean-air action plan that we worked so hard to develop in both ports as an excuse to eliminate our jobs­ — to me is very bad decision on their part,” he said. “It’s about our livelihood and our jobs.”

Some in labor predict that if this plan is approved it could lead to the elimination of 25 percent of the workers on the waterfront—with no clear path for these workers being trained in any new jobs created by the new technology, something that is mandated in the ILWU contract.

On Feb. 15, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed longtime labor advocate and retired attorney Diane Middleton to the Harbor Commission to serve until the end of the term vacated by the death of commissioner David Arian who died in January. The term ends  on June 30, 2019.

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