ILA president: “We won’t work autonomous box ships”

Written by Nick Blenkey
ILA president

International Longshoremen’s Association president Harold J. Daggett: “The ILA will not work a containership without a crew aboard.”

The president of the International Longshoremen’s Association, Harold J. Daggett, says he has a message to any shipping companies planning to utilize autonomous containerships without crew: “Don’t sail them into ILA ports from Maine to Texas, Puerto Rico, and Eastern Canada – they won’t be unloaded or loaded by ILA Members!”

“Workers around the world are under assault from the threat of automation by greedy companies only interested in making money and eliminating workers who helped them build their success and companies,” said Daggett, citing media reports on progress with autonomous ship projects in Norway and Japan,. “It’s got to stop, and my ILA will do what it needs to do to save our jobs and the jobs of maritime workers around the world.”

In 2018, Daggett negotiated a six-year agreement with United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) that prevented any automation or automated equipment at ILA ports. In exchange, the ILA pledged to keep productivity levels above what automated equipment could produce. The ILA says that, apart from lower production levels due to the worldwide COVID pandemic, it has kept its promise and kept its members working. During the 10 years he has led the ILA as International President, Daggett has successfully successfully negotiated two Master Contracts with USMX.

“The ILA will not work a containership without a crew aboard,” said Daggett. “Already one company developing these automated ships also plans for automated loading and unloading of cargo from these crew-less ships without workers. That’s not going to happen under my watch.”

The current ILA contract expires in three years, and Daggett says he will continue to keep his members protected from the threat of automation.

“We will continue to negotiate for no automation, or automated equipment at ILA ports,” he said President Daggett. “And we are going to demand no semi-automated equipment be allowed. The ILA has learned that even allowing semi-automated equipment is the path for companies to slowly eliminate our jobs.”

The ILA leader hopes all U.S. maritime unions will join the ILA in refusing to allow autonomous container vessels. He says he is also confident of gaining the support of the world-wide International Dockworkers’ Council IDC) to join the ILA in its campaign to stand its ground against the elimination of on-board shipping jobs.

“Now more than ever, dockworkers from around the world, joined by all maritime workers must unite to fight this important battle against automation,” said Daggett.

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