The commission voted 3-2 Thursday to deny an ILWU appeal of a permit that allows APM Terminals to test automated terminal equipment at Pier 400.
The board of commissioners of the Port of Los Angeles voted 3-2 on Thursday morning to deny an appeal of a coastal development permit (CDP) that had been granted to APM Terminals to test equipment at its Pier 400 container terminal that eventually could be used to automate the facility.
APMT, an affiliate of Maersk Line, wants to operate automated battery-electric straddle carriers at Pier 400 container terminal, the largest in the port, to replace trucks that are currently used to move containers between quayside ship-to-shore cranes and the container yard.
Not only will that reduce air pollution, but John Ochs, senior director for West Coast labor relations and regulatory affairs at APMT said earlier this year that by using straddle carriers and reconfiguring its container yard,Pier 400 would be able to reduce the turn time for truckers moving containers to and from the port.
The appeal of the coastal development permit was filed by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which fears it will result in the elimination of its members’ jobs and have a negative impact on the communities surrounding the port.
Hundreds of longshoremen and community members attended the commission meeting.
Jaime L. Lee, the president of the board of commissioners, said that she believed the Level 1 permit complied with the port’s master plan and was properly issued by Gene Seroka, the port’s executive director, who had the authority to issue the permit.
“I don’t believe there is anything within the scope of the work considered by APM Terminals that would raise it to the level of a Level 2 coastal development permit,” Lee said.
She was joined by Commissioners Lucia Moreno-Linares and Edward R. Renwick in denying the ILWU appeal.
Commissioners Anthony Pirozzi Jr. and Dianne Middleton voted to support the appeal.
Lee said while Pirozzi had pointed to some deficiencies in information provided, there was not a requirement that the permit “check every box and fill every line.”
“It’s not our job here to opine on whether or not this is a good business decision or a good investment,” she said, adding there also was not a requirement in the Level 1 CDP to create jobs or prevent the loss of jobs.
Middleton argued that the permit did not conform to the port’s master plan and would have significant adverse environmental impacts. She complained that the permit information was “vague and ambiguous” and that the company had not done an analysis of the impact on employment.
She said the union did not have sufficient information about APMT’s plans for Pier 400 “and neither do we.”
Middleton said employment is “absolutely part of the port’s master plan” and argued the effect that automation of the terminal might have on employment should be part of the review process for the permit.
“This is a major economic issue,” she said.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has been meeting with the union and APMT in recent months. A spokesman for the mayor issued a statement saying he “is strongly committed to a secure future for the men and women whose hard work has made our port the best in the world — and knows that continued success depends on all parties staying committed to productive discussions around training, safety and staffing programs that will strengthen the port and its workforce. The mayor will continue to engage all parties and is optimistic as talks move forward.”
The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), the organization that negotiates labor contracts between employers and the ILWU, said the commissioners “acted in clear compliance with the port master plan and the law by enabling Pier 400 to modernize in order to stem the troubling loss of market share at the Port of Los Angeles and create one of the greenest terminals in the world.”
Renwick noted in his comments that while the Port of Los Angeles reported record container volumes in the past two years, it has lost 20% of market share in the past decade.
While ILWU members are legitimately concerned about job loss, he said, “unfortunately none of that is relevant to the decision we have to make.
“As an appointed representative, my leeway is narrow. I have to follow the law. I am not allowed to change the law,” he said.
After the vote, Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino said, “I will be asserting the City Council’s jurisdiction over this item and will bring it before the full council for a vote.”
Section 245 of the Los Angeles city charter says the City Council can veto the action of the board but “not amend or take any other action with respect to the board’s action” and that “an action vetoed by the council shall be remanded to the originating board, which … shall have the authority it originally held to take action on the matter.”
The PMA said, “If the City Council was to overturn the harbor commissioners’ decision, it would send a damaging message regarding the city’s commitment to environmental leadership and the continuing competitiveness of the Port of Los Angeles. The permit enabling terminal modernization was granted in compliance with the port master plan and local and state laws, and the automation that would follow is explicitly provided for under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the ILWU and PMA.
“Preventing port terminals from evolving to keep pace with the global economy and to combat climate change threatens to cause long-term damage to jobs, tax revenue and economic vitality for all of California,” said the PMA.
Wim Lagaay, president and CEO of APM Terminals North America in Charlotte, N.C., told the Press-Telegram newspaper that his company welcomed the commission’s decision and that the permit is “needed to utilize electric, clean-air equipment at Pier 400 (and) furthers the goals of the port master plan.”