Automation and Safety in Container Terminals

Authorship

Mark Sisson, PE, Senior Port Planner, AECOM, Oakland, CA, USA

Publication

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Fewer injuries to one and all

“An Injury to One Is an Injury to All” is the famous slogan of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU)– a powerful union that works the ports on the West Coast of the United States. And until cargo containerization became a widespread practice, working the docks was a remarkably dangerous profession. According to Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) statistics, the injury rate prior to 1960 was between three and four injuries per full-time worker every year.

This appalling rate of on-the-job injury dropped dramaticallyas breakbulk operations were phased out in favor of containerization. By the late 1970s, the annual rate of injury was approximately 15 per 100 full-time workers, some 95 percent lower than the rate prevailing prior to containerization. Whether the ILWU advocated containerization with sufficient gusto – in keeping with their anti-injury slogan – is a topic for another paper. This paper focuses on post-containerization safety trends, and explores the possibility of generating further safety benefits by increasing automation at West Coast ports…

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