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22 October 2021 The on-line newspaper devoted to the world of transports 20:51 GMT+2

October 8, 2021

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Port automation? It's not all gold that glitters, says the International Transport Forum

It's not just about social costs, which they would already do. tip the balance in favor of port work

In a moment like the current one, characterized by a chain containerized logistics placed under extreme pressure from consequences that the Covid-19 pandemic has had and is still having on world trade, who thinks that a greater automation of port container terminals could and it could have the effect of easing this tension wrong.

"Port automation is not the magic wand for more efficient port activities'. The concludes the study on the automation of container ports presented today from the International Transport Forum (ITF) explaining that container terminal automation does not have this effect decisive and "especially not for the ports that are located in the face of huge peaks and drops in workload due to more ships great». Based on the report of the FTI, not even the port authorities and terminal operators dockers believe that automation can have the power to increase the efficiency of their business: "very few ports - notes the study - have introduced extensively automation, probably because there is little evidence that in practice, automation increases productivity or reduces handling costs in ports subject to workloads floating".'

Different, however, the discourse if automation is introduced in those port terminals - few, it seems, given the cyclicity of this type of traffic flow - which move more constant volumes of traffic: "in specific circumstances, such as large terminals with constrained and constant containers - explains the report - automation of the terminal can constitute an effective intervention under the cost profile. It can be convenient - specifies the study - even in the event of a shortage of labour.'

A disincentive to the automation of port terminals - second the study of the ITF - it is also represented by the evolution of the containerized maritime transport market. 'The consolidation in containerized transport and the squeeze collaboration between containerized shipping companies through alliances and consortia - notes the document - have increased the bargaining power of shipping companies containerized on the ports. This strengthening of power contractual made container flows to most of less constrained ports and terminals are less likely to benefit from automation'.

The FTI's analysis also shows that "the introduction of automation often leads to social conflicts, especially when there is little dialogue between employers' representatives of work and employees or when the costs and benefits of projects of automation are not clearly expressed'. The study also focuses on the social costs of automation, stressing that they are often ignored. They are costs - clarifies the document - that 'include social security contributions, in the event of dismissal, and loss of tax revenue, when port workers are replaced by machines. Most people - observe the study - receives an income from work and generally the revenues of personal income taxes are higher compared to those of corporate taxes. Therefore, in many cases, the tax revenue of people lost due to the replacing a worker with a machine is not offset by higher revenue from corporate taxes. They can be additional tax revenue related to the profits generated from the production of automated systems, but these are generated in the countries in which they are produced, which are often not the in which the worker is replaced by the machine.' The study warns that "the social costs of automation will come obviously ignored by the interested parties who benefit from it, but should be taken into account by governments in their decisions on port automation. This could be facilitated by ensuring that ex ante evaluations of Port automation always keep cost of these social costs. Discuss social costs as an integral part of the discussion policy on port automation - urges the ITF - should become the usual practice".

Since the port terminals are not particularly automated adapted to the volatility of traffic flows, while - underlines the study - the work is, the ITF report recommends that policymakers focus more on flexible working arrangements, flexibility - explains the document - which is required to cope with peaks and drops of activities determined both by the greater volatility of traffic flows from the use of ships of greater capacity. In this regard, the document expressed reference to labor pools for labor provision harbour.

Finally, the study recommends better identifying costs and benefits of port automation projects, thus facilitating way informed debate and improving the construction of the consensus, and to stimulate cooperation between employers and workers, social dialogue that should discuss the developments of the containerized transport - such as naval gigantism and consolidation of the sector - which have an impact on opportunities automation.

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