What would be the potential impacts as China is banning American trash imports?

On July 18, China claimed that it would stop taking foreign shipments of waste goods, such as plastic and paper, from foreign countries.According to a Reuters report, China wrote in a statement to WTO that “to protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health, we urgently adjust the imported solid wastes list, and forbid the import of solid wastes that are highly polluted.”

An BloombergView article said China has practiced imports of trash for more than 30 years, and it is a significant contributor to the rise of the Chinese economy. The Chinese environmental authorities estimate that more than 5,000 tons of garbage imported every year. The CNN Money calls it “a $5 billion annual business that is now in danger of sinking.” However, this is not a new trend. In 2013, the Chinese government launched “Operation Green Fence” Program to block imports of illegal and low-quality waste through improved inspections of container ships. In February 2017, Chinese customs officials initiated “National Sword” program to reduce illegal shipments of industrial and electronic waste. According to Resource Recycling Inc, in 2013, it costs about $2,100 per container that was rejected by China and shipped back to Los Angeles/Long Beach port.

The idea of shipping trash to China originates the balance of trading and maybe also the thought that the United States should not let empty ships going back China. Thus, America fills the return-trip containers with recycled cardboard boxes, waste paper and other trashes. The Economist said it is a double-win solution. It said America can earn a return from their waste, while China can have a constant supply of cheap recycled materials.

However, the issue is the quality of trash.

“We found that large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials. This polluted China’s environment seriously,” China’s WTO filing said. The Chinese government criticized Americans for not separating trashes ahead , and the Chinese government said failing to handle trash separation in the United States increases pollution in China.

On the other side, the critics said most of the waste consumed by China’s recycling industry comes from domestic sources, not imports. Adam Minter, the author of “Junkyard Planet”, wrote in an article on BloombergView this July to argue that China’s government has long played up stories about foreign waste, partly to deflect attention from unmanageable garbage problems at home.

Who will be the loser in this trash ban? The answer is everyone, including China, America, the environment, and global economy.

It is for sure not a good news for Americans. Jeff Harwood, an Olympia-area recycling center manager in Washington,  tells Washington state’s KIRO-TV in 2013 that the problem is American does not have market for recycling goods. It is still true today. Minter claims that “on average roughly one-third of the stuff that’s tossed into U.S. recycling bins can’t be made into new products domestically.” Moreover, Winter wrote in his book that in Foshan, China, the salary of a recycling worker is 100 dollar per month plus rooms and boards. The cost of recycling process would be much more expensive in America. He also claimed that it is cheaper to ship trashes from America to China than to transport them from Los Angeles to Chicago through railway.

It also has potential to hurt Chinese economy. For China, The trade of trash imports is a more than half of the $1 billion a year business to recycling industry. Although China today is not as eager to recycling materials as it was decades ago, the ban still will drastically decreases the demand. Minter wrote in July that imported recyclables are cleaner than their Chinese counterparts, and banning them will force many Chinese recyclers to shut down and thousands of workers losing jobs. Moreover, recycling materials imported from America is also much cheaper than the ones in China. As the Chinese economy still heavily rely on manufacture, the ban might also causes the rise of goods.

The ban might could not even protect the environment or improve the public health. As China bans its trash imports, its 29 million tons of paper and 7 million tons plastic scrap still need to find place to go. They might end with landfill that does not have effective recycling ability as China has.

At the last, the ban will also affects the price of paper and plastic globally. It would be “chaotic for the global recycling industry,” said Bill Moore of Moore & Associates, an Atlanta-based paper recycling consultant.

“Mixed paper prices would plummet in the U.S., North America and in Western Europe because all the mixed paper we’re pumping out in residential [programs] would have no home,” Moore explained. “So that would be chaotic at the local government level, at the MRF level, at the collector level. It would be complete disruption.”


China Decides To Take Out The Trash, but At What Cost?

The world has a lot of recyclables, especially Americans. When I say a lot, I mean billions worth. According to Bloomberg, “by the mid-2000s, scrap paper was among the leading U.S. exports to China by volume.” China has been the largest importer of the world’s recycled goods for some time now as a result of the hunger it’s manufacturing boom caused. In order to feed the consumerist beast of The United States and others, China needs the scrap to keep up without breaking its bank. It is cheaper for China to import recycled scrap as opposed to making steel, paper, cardboard, etc. on their own so it seems like a win-win for the country. In July of 2017, China’s government announced it will stop eating up a majority of the world’s recyclables and will no longer be the world’s recycling bin. The government made this decision due to environmental concerns. Reuters reported that China told the World Trade Organization that in order “to protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health, we urgently adjust the imported solid wastes list, and forbid the import of solid wastes that are highly polluted.”

The environmental concerns are outweighing the trade benefits for China and they have for some time time now. In 2013, according to The Economist, the Chinese government launched Operation Green Fence to try and lessen the amount of foreign, low-quality waste from entering the country. This new announcement by the Chinese government is proposing to cut off a majority of recyclable imports for the sake of the environment. China is facing a $5 billion loss in trade with this proposal according to a report by The Economist. As of 2016, Reuters stated that China imported $3.7 billion worth of waste. This decision to choke scrap imports will rattle the global economy significantly.

Not only will China be heavily affected, but the United States will be too. Exporting waste takes work and work means more American jobs. Bloomberg reported that 40,000 Americans have jobs due to the exportation of recyclables. When China blocks the trading of trash, about 40,000 Americans will be left without a job and the American landfills will fill back up. The cost is significant as well. There could be a trickle-down effect here into individual American homes as well. If it begins to cost too much for smaller recycling companies, or even some larger ones to pay for more workers or equipment, this could mean the separation of waste could fall directly on the individual. The loss of this huge benefit to the trade deficit between China and the United States will leave many cargo ships empty of exports to take back to China.

With that being said, the recycling market will remain afloat, but domestically and at a smaller scale. According to Dylan de Thomas, vice president of industry collaboration for the Recycling Partnership, “the really large waste and recycling companies have a vested interest in the recycled fiber and plastic markets.” Not only large companies, but the general public in the United States has a vested interest in recycling as well. Due to America’s own concern for the environment, we may only see a small effect on the American economy as whole, but only time will tell if the United States can pick up where China left off or have to figure out a new strategy.


The Unbalanced Pyramid: The Illicit Economy Behind China’s Lifting of One-Child Policy

Heralded as a powerhouse to propel the world into the future, China has long been regarded as having one of the most sound demographics to power its economy. Recently, the country has announced that it is lifting the controversial one-child policy, which has been in place since 1979 as a means to control the population at a time when China was still poor and undeveloped. However, remnant effects are being felt by the country in 21st century, in the form of a destabilized demographic.

What would happen when your family is told that you are only allowed one child, and in some cases at most one son after having a daughter, in a country where sons are traditionally viewed as being more virtuous than daughters?

(An old propaganda poster supporting One-Child Policy: “Executing the One-Child Policy Is A Part of the Country’s Foundamental Principles.”)


Some simple math will tell us that male babies born will outnumber the female ones, and this is exactly the problem Chinese Millennials and Gen Zs face as they approach adulthood. In his article, BC Cook outlined the threats he thinks the Chinese society faces as a result of the One-Child Policy. The most pronounced issue, he argues, is the problem of “online brides”, or brides from neighboring Asian countries who come over to be married to Chinese single men who cannot find a wife.

Now, online dating is not illegal, not even in China. “However,” Cook argues, “Chinese men finding foreign brides and starting families is exactly what the Chinese government was trying to avoid. So the one-child, male-only mandate from the government has backfired.”

On one hand, there is a markedly obvious imbalance in the “supply and demand” of domestic brides, as a direct result of the One-Child Policy. On the other, the Chinese philosopher Mengzi summarized in a proverb: “Dishonor to the family has three forms, and having no child is of the worst.”(不孝有三,无后为大)The Chinese traditional culture heavily focuses on the idea of continuing one’s lineage by starting one’s own family. To this day, this idea still permeates all levels of Chinese society. Where demand exists supply must be sought, and in this case, in the form of online brides from Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, etc.

(“It sure would be nice to have a sibling, Mr. Xi!”)

Disregarding the ethical arguments, this aspect of the One-Child Policy’s remnant effects certainly has created social-political implications where the imbalance of a very sensitive supply-and-demand relationship sought balance elsewhere. “There is a limit to how much we can legislate human behavior,” summarized Cook, articulating his belief that the Chinese government has disrupted an instinctive economy of basic human needs.

It is very unlikely that the Chinese government will step in to regulate the online dating industry as a result, because online dating has created an in-demand economy across China. Still, the influx of foreign brides, many of whom are still undocumented, has most definitely created implications for the government.

Not only does supply create its own demand. Demand creates supply where necessary, too.

It’s Complicated: on U.S.-China Film Industry Relationship

It’s Complicated: on U.S.-China Film Industry Relationship

Yutai Han

(Image: ChinaFilmInsider.com)

With dazzling lights and glamour, the annual U.S.-China Film Summit kicked off yesterday in Los Angeles. Among the attendees are several leaders of the industry and Chinese directors, all working to achieve the same end: how to tap into the Chinese film market.

Admittedly, film is of the highest prestige of our society at large. It is the equivalent of Shakespeare in Victorian England, except that now the movie business is globalized and glamourized, serving human vanity and desires, and in turn the quality of films varies significantly. But generally speaking, the best films of the industry, produced by the highest caliber of crews and casts, and distributed by the savviest companies, attract audiences and money in a highly profitable way. A lot of them originates from Hollywood, a heavily industrialized dreamland of capital and talent from the very start, exporting formalized stories of dreams to the whole world. As a major trade surplus, cultural exports made up for 4 percent of the U.S. GDP.

Similar to every economic story, the cards reshuffle when China becomes a player.

It was 1994 when mainland China opened its market to Hollywood with a quota of 10 films annually, which in effect led to a mass of people going to Hollywood blockbuster productions and a domestic revitalization. By 2020, the Chinese film market might surpass North America to be the world’s largest. It’s fair to say that now, the two biggest players in the film industry are the U.S. and China. Under the current deal set in 2012, China exhibits 34 overseas films per year. Some successful candidates are: Warcraft, a $47 million domestic box office and $213 million in China; A Dog’s Purpose, a $64 million domestic box office and $88 million in China. Note that these two productions had Chinese partners, and guess who—it’s Tencent and Alibaba! The promotion of Warcraft was wild. With the attention-grabbing subway poster and targeted mobile advertisement, and paid promotions among review channels, one literally cannot escape. This age of wide-spread and shameless marketing lays ground for propaganda films, such as the $848 million grossing Wolf Warrior 2, the biggest mega-blockbuster yet with a murky net of more than 20 producers and distributors that doesn’t fall short from CDOs.

The more alarming phenomenon is the nationalist and propagandist element of the film was able to fully manifest through the film medium and utilized by the film’s promotion people. The film was not necessarily propaganda but it was a chant of populist heroism, which could be utilized as propaganda. One outspoken critic received death threats. Films, as Slovenian Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek puts it, are “ideology at its purest”. It seems to me that it’s unlikely that Hollywood can march further into the Chinese film market, because under the obvious clash of interests, there exists an ideological tension. Even domestically produced Film or TV shows can be called off at the last minute, as one film, Feng Xiaogang’s Youth, was unfortunately delayed due to sensitive topics of Vietnam veterans being depicted as homeless. Other than that, the film is a personal project for the director to recount his most glamorous days as a young artist embedded within the military. Inside sources say that the market is not regulated by the Administration alone, but by some senior members who have the power to shut down speech. From now on, the future is downward. After Wolf Warrier 2, Chinese production companies convinced themselves that the most profitable way to make films is to make such films that “coincidentally” go along with the party’s authoritarian control. The stagnating Chinese film market can be partly attributed to this mentality. But on the other hand, films can also not be about promoting any ideology, but about love, loneliness, memories, the future and the universal human condition. Think Hong Kong cinema master of romance, Wong Kar-wai. His films sold good enough and especially among the Pan-Asian market to receive a Cannes. It is therefore not fair to regard the Chinese film market as impenetrable, and Chinese companies as corporate minions. If Hollywood and the liberal politicians try hard enough to look at China’s issues, that is. We need to restore cinema as “art manifest”. The road is long and bumpy, but we shall soldier on.

The war on washing machines

Washing machines are a common figure in nearly every household. They’re bought by many, are made by an array of manufacturers and sold at a variety of retailers. While most people think about the features and prices of various washing machines, they never often think about where those machines come from. In comes the latest challenge for President Donald Trump.

In the last several years washing machines have traditionally been sold by three brands: Whirlpool, LG, and Samsung.

Whirlpool, a U.S. based company employs thousands of factory workers in areas such as Clyde, Ohio. As most manufacturing jobs have shrunk nationwide, Whirlpool has endured and in some instances thrived. They brought back factory operations from Mexico and Germany and even absorbed regional competitors such as Maytag according to the Los Angeles Times.

But, Whirlpool was not prepared for the competition that would arise from foreign competitors, LG and Samsung, both centered in South Korea. The two companies in recent years allegedly committed foul trade moves including trade dumping. This would lead Whirlpool to file a rare trade complaint against them. While LG and Samsung have been accused of dumping products at extremely low prices, the complaint targets their choice in moving plants to different countries to avoid paying duties the United States has imposed.

In early October, the United States International Trade Commission voted 4-0 to review the complaint and determine possible next steps.The Los Angeles Times reports that an independent panel will consider protectionist policies to recommend to Trump. Trump who in the past has gone on record to support protectionist policies in order to protect American businesses now must decide if such policies are necessary to protect Whirlpool.

The president has the authority to enact wide sweeping barriers in order to protect American businesses in the event that they were harmed by the activity of overseas competitors.

TraQline estimates that Whirlpool went from a 22.6 percent market share in 2008 to just 17.4 percent by mid 2017. Meanwhile, LG and Samsung have seen their market shares in the washing machine department grow. LG grew from 12.6 percent to 16.2 percent in that same time period. Samsung experienced the most drastic increase going from a mere 1.7 percent share to nearly 20 percent.

However, the issue is not black and white. Such wide sweeping tariffs if enacted, can go on to have ripple effects in the job industry, something Trump has also gone on record to promoting. “I’ll be the greatest jobs producer that God ever created,” said Trump in a January speech.


Both manufacturers have announced plans to build factories in the United States. LG announced in February it would build a $250 million washing machine factory in Tennessee that would create 600 jobs. In June, Samsung announced plans for a $380 million factory in South Carolina that would be dedicated to building home appliances of which washing machines will be part of.

This would not be the first time that the United States government has had a battle between washing machine manufacturers. In 2013, under the Obama administration, the Times reported that the United States imposed duties on South Korea and Mexico for similar reasons. More so, in early 2017 similar duties were imposed on China. Whirlpool alleges that business had moved to China after 2013. Now the company is alleging that Vietnam and Thailand are home to manufacturing plants.

The committee must send their recommendations by December 4 and any type of action taken by Trump will undeniably be challenged by the World Trade Organization. The WTO in 2003 struck against steel tariffs imposed by President George W. Bush in a case that closely resembles this one.

This isn’t the only situation regarding protectionist policies that Trump is dealing with. He is also considering steel tariffs similar to Bush while also researching intellectual property protection from Chinese incursions.

Nonetheless, the president finds himself in another sticky situation. Both jobs and trade were focal points of his campaign and any one action taken on either side can have damaging effects on the other. It will be interesting to see where the war on washing machines goes from here. The silver lining is that disputes such as this are part of many that the WTO deals with and a firm answer could take years.






Trump’s Trade (Partial)Truth

I’ve trained myself to automatically assume that everything Donald Trump says is incorrect. It mitigates frustration and utter disbelief. It prioritizes my sanity. Most importantly, it causes me great surprise when he says something that is anything remotely near true. With Trump as our president, I keep Snopes bookmarked in my favorites bar.

One of Trump’s favorite hot topics is China. He called global warming a hoax created by China. He accused the U.S. of becoming at third-world country at the hands of China. He even tweeted that China did “NOTHING” to help the U.S. stop North Korea from creating nuclear weapons.

No matter how much I hate to admit it, though, President Trump’s take on trade with China does have an inkling of truth. In his 2017 Inaugural Address, he said:

“We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon. One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind.”

While this is an extreme exaggeration, we should be careful not to brush it off as quickly as we do his take on global warming.

China, by all means, is a global powerhouse. However, it wasn’t always that way. For years and years, communist China had a downward-spiriling economy. But between 1991 and 2013, China’s exports increased from 2% of the world’s total to almost 20% (Freakonomics). The country transformed into a leading producer as a result of its plentitude of resources available and more importantly, its cheap labor. China was able to do this so quickly because of its sheer size and the massive potential amount of slack it had to pick up.

In the 1990’s, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach exploded in use due to China’s manufacturing transformation. The two ports combined currently do the most trade in the U.S. (Port of LA Communications). Jobs in shipping–working at the port, sorting, on trains, etc–all either kept or exceeded their current demand. The one part of the labor market that fell apart was manufacturing.

Globalization, trade amongst foreign countries, raises the GDP of the countries at stake. This is not without adverse distributional consequences, though. And one of its biggest dilemmas is labor.

China’s rapid production development is one of the best things to have happened to the U.S. middle class. Chinese workers are employed and producing items to be exported to other countries. People in the U.S. are happy because everything they buy is so much cheaper, thanks to the low financial cost of labor in China and the super low cost of streamlined shipping thanks to the invention of TEUs (Gabriel Kahn). The net effect of the U.S.-China trade relationship is good.

The loser is the manufacturing labor market, a potential reason for why we are currently living in a country with Donald Trump serving as president. With China producing things at such low costs, the need for low-skilled or unskilled manufacturing jobs in the United Stated became virtually nonexistent. Manufacturing workers were laid off in the masses, and plants closed throughout America. From 2000-2007, one million U.S. manufacturing jobs disappeared, 40% of which was attributable to China’s newfound success (Autor). Highly-skilled U.S. workers were just fine, but those who were educated at that level lost their work to cheap Chinese labor.

Those low-skilled manufacturing workers were now out of work and needed to costlessly reallocate to their next best opportunity. This was not easy to do because for the most part because their adaptation skills were poor, making reallocations unsuccessful. This had adverse effects on other labor markets, which served the manufacturing plants that went out of business. The wages of manufacturing jobs that did still exist were lowered because of the low cost of Chinese labor. Public transfer benefits such as medicare, medicaid, food stamps, etc., became more widely used because low-skilled workers were out of work, and their skills levels made it hard for them to reallocate without any costs.

China’s transformation into a country of mass exports adversely created job loss, wage depression, and increase in welfare spending for a particular portion of the United States: manufacturing workers who aren’t highly skilled. The growth of China into a powerhouse nation was as a majority a global good. However, much to Trump’s and my dismay, it also fully disrupted a U.S. labor market–manufacturing–for the worse.

TPP? Trump? NAFTA? What?

President Trump withdrew the U.S. from TPP after taking office, which was one of the promises he made during his campaign trail.

But if like me, you still don’t really understand what TPP is or know what it even stands for, here’s a little breakdown.

TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, involves twelve countries bordering the Pacific Ocean. It was “aimed to deepen economic ties between [those] nations,” and “designed so that it could eventually create a new single market, something like that of the EU,” said BCC. It was supposed to “[level] the playing field for American workers and businesses, supporting more Made-in-America exports and higher-paying American jobs,” according to the government’s statement.

Basically, it had potential to exponentially grow the American economy, allowing trade without tariffs or restrictions between some of the most powerful nations. The Peterson Institute for International Economics estimated that the U.S. national income would increase by $131 billion a year by 2030 under TTP.

So how did people take Trump’s withdrawal of TTP?

On one side, “[big] businesses are howling that Trump is undercutting their ability to sell to the vast majority of the world’s consumers” (CNN), while on the other hand, there is praise in that Americans are being put first. In other words, critics believe that TTP would destroy American jobs.

The New Yorker argued that the trade agreement “wouldn’t have had much direct impact on blue-collar workers” due to the fact that “global shift away from tariffs and other trade barriers began in 1964 and was, largely, complete by the mid-two-thousands.” A job couldn’t determine the number of jobs available, only economic activity can.

Trump is currently renegotiating NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is a trade deal between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. He wants to reduce deficits between the U.S. and Mexico, because, for example, “[in] 2016, Americans bought $55.6 billion more imports from Mexico than vice versa” (qtd. in The Balance).

There is also talk that President Trump could end up eliminating NAFTA on top of TPP. A decision has yet to be made.

The Future of Container Shipping: What’s Next?

The world is constantly changing and evolving, as new technological advancements continue to materialize. With new findings in technology comes improvements and upgrades in different industries. But what could this mean for a traditional industry like container shipping?

From the looks of it, most people would think that the container shipping industry has not experienced much change in their operations for the past several years. However, that is not true.

During the late 1950’s, cargo was loaded into shipping vessels manually by workers at the dock, and then again unloaded by workers once ships arrived. Eventually, the use of containers transformed the industry, allowing more goods to be stacked and be shipped easier. As a result, ports were forced to rebuild themselves to be able to store the containers, implement huge cranes for their operations, and include highway and rail terminals to send ships directly to the ports. This advancement revolutionized trade and sparked a global economic boom.

But what is the only other way to allow even more goods to be transported? Larger ships! Over the years, ships have gotten so massive that it gets you wondering how they still stay afloat. Companies quickly realized that regardless of the ship’s size, approximately the same number of sailors were needed to operate the ship and less fuel per container was needed to move larger ships. This is a trend we will continue to see, which is largely a reaction to containerization and automation which allows faster loading and discharging of vessels.

Larger container ships are not the only trend the shipping industry is experiencing. Shipping companies are reinvesting into specialized ship types. This is mainly seen in areas of heavy lifting or transportation of certain chemicals. There are extremely specialized ships that are being constructed, with capabilities to only transport specific items, such as parts of offshore windmills. This has developed employees that specialize in ships and trade in niche industries.

Along with the worldwide trend of going green, shipping is also focusing on developing a green image. Innovation has allowed a reduction in the negative environmental impact caused by shipping. There is now an increasing amount of engine improvements, propeller performance, and friction-reducing air cushions. However, this is only just the beginning. As more ships and methods of operating are becoming specialized, the maritime industry is moving more towards an environmentally friendly era.





The Dream of Being a Longshoreman

The Port of Los Angeles is the largest port in the United States. In 2016, 2,050 ships brought $272 billion worth of cargo to Los Angeles. The Port of LA is a crucial piece of importing manufactured goods from China.

A critical piece of this massive operation is the longshoremen, the workers who handle the loading and unloading of the ships in the port. The longshoremen and their union are so critical to port and its trade that they have the power to disrupt an entire supply chain. In 2002, during contract negotiations, the union essentially shut down the west coast ports as a leverage in their negotiation. This caused disruptions not only on the west coast but across the country where goods couldn’t be delivered and across the Pacific where the goods are made. This relatively small union has immense power over the import of goods in the United States.

Longshoreman jobs are coveted. Longshoreman can make more than $100,000 a year and receive free health care, but it is not easy to become a longshoreman. In order to get this dream of a blue collar job paying over $100k, you have to get into the dockworkers union, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

The first step to becoming a fully-fledged member of the union is winning the lottery. In order to get in the union, you have to become a “casual” worker. Casual workers do the same work as union longshoremen for less pay and benefits. To become a casual part-time worker you have to win a literal lottery. The longshoreman union held the first lottery, since 2004, for casual worker spots. This year 80,000 people entered the drawing and only 2,300 will be eligible for part dock work. They all entered with the dream of having the modern day unicorn, a high paying blue collar job. Just because they won the lottery, they aren’t guaranteed elevation to be a full union member.

TraPac Automated Terminal

As the Port of LA and other west coast ports become more automated, the number of dockworker jobs available will not go up. But they also will not go away entirely. Even in the automated terminals at the Port of LA, PAC, humans still have the operate the massive cranes that lift the containers off the ships. The need for the dockworkers will not go away, the demand will just decrease.

The longshoremen in Los Angeles are at the front of the globalized economy acting as gatekeepers of trade. They also have a what can feel like is missing in this globalized world, a well paying middle-class job.







Would the Increase in Automation at Ports Help or Hurt?

As time goes on, technological advancements are to be expected. For many industries, the growth of technology is a great thing, as it helps innovate new products in electronics, medicine, and more. But for workers at ports across the world, increases in automation, technology and robotics threaten local workers’ jobs.

This debate hits especially close to home, as the ports in California alone handle 40 percent of U.S. container traffic. With the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach being the two biggest ports in America, they are also one of the main employers of the region. Between port operations and commerce, the Port of Los Angeles supplies over 133,000 jobs in the LA area. The Port of Long Beach accounts for over 30,000 jobs in Long Beach alone through its 20 divisions.

If the ports went completely automated, would all these people be out of work?

Of course, the answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no. While not every single employee at each respective port would be out of a job, certain jobs like terminal operators may be at the most risk.

The most recent automation update at ports is in the yard cranes. According to Port Technology, several ports around the world like Singapore, Germany and Holland have already adopted automatic crane use, and local ports have installed a few as well. The technology installed in these cranes allows for precise automatic pick-up of containers, drop-off, and perfect stacking.

Naturally, there are both advantages and disadvantages to adopting automation in the ports. One advantage is the efficiency and accuracy by which robots are able to do work. Automation would allow for a greater amount of goods and containers to get through ports and it would make the transaction turnarounds even quicker.

One terminal in the Los Angeles port that has already adopted automation has seen time spent loading and unloading the ship be cut in half since the switch. This not only creates higher profits for the terminal operators, but it gets trucks and drivers back on the road faster. Additionally, the electric- and hybrid-powered automated machines significantly cut down on carbon emissions, which is better for the environment.

However, with the adoption of automation could also come a huge loss of jobs across the country. As history has shown, when the standardized shipping container was first introduced, over 90 percent of dock workers lost their jobs within 15 years. Of course, current port workers are concerned that history will repeat itself and automation will completely eliminate their current jobs.

While the Port of Los Angeles, in particular, has partially adopted automation, their solution seems to be to keep it that way for now in the hopes that no jobs will be lost. Full automation at a port would take a lot of time and money, but it seems to be where the future is headed. Perhaps in 10 or 20 years, ports across the world will all be fully automated.