NY-NJ Terminal Unveils Automation Plans

NY-NJ Terminal Unveils Automation Plans

A New York-New Jersey terminal operator unveiled plans for labor-saving technology in an expansion set to open in 2014, but the president of the International Longshoremen’s Association said he’ll resist job cuts.

James Devine, chief executive of GCT USA, this month provided the ILA with formal notice of the company’s plans to introduce new technology at Global Terminals in Bayonne, N.J., which is being expanded to 170 acres from the current 100.

The ILA’s coastwide contract requires employers to provide 180-day notice of plans for labor-saving technology. Under the contract, the union cannot block introduction of the technology but can negotiate the impact on jobs.

ILA President Harold Daggett, elected last July, said he’ll insist on job guarantees for the Global expansion. Daggett has frequently criticized labor-saving technology at ports, saying it threatens union jobs.

“We’re going to fight it any way we can,” Daggett said. “The men are not going to stand by and let an automated terminal come in, knowing they’re going to lose their jobs, knowing they’re getting their walking papers.”

Devine said Global’s new technology doesn’t seek to automate for automation’s sake. “Within our relatively small footprint we have to become more efficient and the way to do that is with significantly more density,” he said. Global’s new acreage will use remotely controlled stacking cranes, similar to those used at a Portsmouth, Va., terminal, in its container yard.

A new truck gate, equipped with optical-recognition scanners that capture images of containers passing through, will serve Global’s new and existing sections. Devine said nearby Maher Terminals uses similar OCR technology.

“We’re not putting in an automated terminal,” Devine said. “We’ll still have longshore personnel driving containers on rail-mounted gantries between ship-to-shore gantry cranes and the yard stackers.

“We have not sought to bring in available technology simply for the purpose of eliminating jobs, which we could have done,” Devine said. “We’re implementing technology to improve the density, to improve the performance of a limited piece of real estate.”

He said the technology will reduce the potential for death and injury by reducing workers’ exposure to moving machinery in the terminal’s container yard. “It’s going to be a much safer, cleaner operation,” he said.

Work has begun on a 900-foot extension of the terminal’s dock to 2,500 feet. Devine said the OCR-equipped gate system is scheduled to open by early 2013 and that the new terminal’s yard has a target completion date of April 14, 2014.

Global is the only major New York-New Jersey container terminal outside the Bayonne Bridge, whose tight 151-foot vertical clearance is an obstacle to large ships. The port authority plans to raise the bridge’s roadway by 2016.

-- Contact Joseph Bonney at jbonney@joc.com. Follow him on Twitter @josephbonney.