Cargo shipping container terminals are very common across the world, packed to capacity with sizeable containers filled with different products and supplies. It is difficult, almost impossible, to regulate all of the containers and their content. It is becoming an even larger task, as cargo shipping is projected to grow a sizeable amount in the next few years. In order to cope with increased demand, many container terminals are beginning to adopt a more automated approach to managing all their containers. For example, a port in Los Angeles has large red robots handing shipping containers off to each other in order to organize the terminal. The question arises of if such automation is more helpful or harmful to homeland security as it relates to cargo shipping containers.
New free trade agreements make automating the organization of cargo shipping ports necessary. Incorporating robots into these terminals will ensure everything moves more quickly and more smoothly while costing less. This is certainly the future of cargo shipping. There have, however, been setbacks. Labor unions have been fighting against automating shipping ports for over ten years. They are resistant because automating shipping ports can reduce the need for personnel by at least 50%, meaning that many people could lose their jobs. Every step of the process towards automation is a battle, which is why it has taken so long for the United States to implement automation of any kind at its shipping ports.
Different ports around the world, however, do not have the same problem and are seeing a lot of success with the automation of their terminals. Productivity has gone up while labor costs have decreased, meaning that they are making a return on the millions of dollars necessary to automate. From a fiscal standpoint, automation is the logical choice.
However, having robots looking after cargo shipping container ports will most likely not improve the safety of cargo shipping in general. In fact, cutting the human element from container ports may make shipping containers more of a threat. It is still difficult to regulate the contents of any shipping container that makes its way into the United States. This means that any number of shipping containers could be a threat to national security and the environment.
I believe that the shipping container industry should be less concerned with buying robots for their ports, and more focused on ensuring they know the contents of each container that comes into the country. With the contents of many containers remaining a mystery, it is important to be able to screen them for any harmful elements. If this screening was somehow worked into the automation of shipping container terminals, the argue to automate would be a no-brainer.