The automated facilities at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – two of the nation’s busiest – are important proving grounds for technologies that have firmly taken root in European and Asian seaports, but remain scarce in the United States. Only four U.S. seaport terminals currently utilize the technology. The other two, in Virginia and New Jersey, were the first in the U.S. to implement dockside automation.
But while some of the world’s largest container ships make calls at East Coast docks, they rarely unload all of their cargo at a single port as they do on the West Coast. That means West Coast shipping terminals are likely to automate faster than their East Coast counterparts, placing the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach at the front of a wave of automation needed to bring U.S. shipping logistics up to speed.
Automating seaports is extremely expensive. The process does not consist of any single thing, but a continuum of digital technologies, software systems, and robotic hardware. Deploying automation to any given port terminal can cost more than $2 million per acre. Automating the 210-acre TraPac terminal at the Port of Los Angeles will likely cost more than $1 billion in public and private funds.