On the radar: Dockworkers’ automation issue, cruise ships return to Seattle and wind farms off the Oregon Coast

🤖 Automation is a major item in the upcoming longshore union’s contract negotiations. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association began contract negotiations in the second week of May, about six weeks before the current contract expires. 

  • Other major issues include pandemic safety, port backlogs and declining exports. The negotiations will be closely watched, including by the U.S. Secretary of Labor, as many hope to avoid another disruption to the global supply chain.
  • The issue of automation is not new but escalating. The Journal of Commerce reported last year that “the ILWU has increasingly come to see automation as an existential threat and a microcosm of the larger threat of robotics displacing human labor. That is a marked shift from earlier years when they accepted terminals’ right to automate in return for various concessions, including lifetime income for any dockworker whose job is eliminated by automation.”

🚢 The cruise ships are back in Seattle. Welcomed by some and disparaged by others, the towering vessels can once again be seen arriving, anchoring and departing from Elliot Bay. The Port of Seattle announced 295 scheduled sailings in 2022, up from 211 in 2019 and a 40% increase.

  • The CDC is investigating a COVID-19 outbreak on a cruise ship that docked in Seattle on May 3 following reports from passengers that the crew was “overwhelmed.”
  • Another cruise-related story making the rounds is about a Seattle couple who retired early by living continuously on cruise ships.

🎏 The U.S. Department of the Interior identified two potential locations off the Oregon Coast for offshore wind farms. The areas are about 12 nautical miles offshore Coos Bay and Brookings. The announcement is not unexpected, given the Biden Administration’s push for alternative energy sources including wind farms. 

  • Following the announcement, Oregon fishermen organized a protest to ensure their concerns are considered as the process moves forward.
  • The nonprofit Oregon Fishermen’s Cable Committee, the subject of a previous Future Tides’ article, offers a model for collaboration between fishermen and major offshore infrastructure through its undersea cable partnerships.

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