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When robots get involved, are human employees at ports still needed?

(People's Daily Online)    17:04, April 25, 2016

In January 2016, hundreds of dockworkers at Rotterdam's container port started a 24-hour strike in protest of job losses due to robotic automation plans at the port. It is the first strike in 13 years.

Highly automated container ports are not unique to Holland. China also sees quite a few ports with automated systems of container handling, said Liu Bin, Director of Institute for International Economics of Dalian Maritime University. 

The Phase I project of Xia'men Yuanyang Container Terminal with automated systems was put to test in March 2016. This terminal was said to be China's first fourth-generation terminal. 

The Phase IV project of Yangshan Deep-Water Port will be China's largest automated port when it is put into operation in 2017. 

Liu said that there are just a few jobs that need men to finish. There were nearly 20 thousand employees at the Port of Dalian at the end of 1980s and the working population has dwindled to two or three thousand for the time being. 

However, no port can function well without human involvement. Insiders point out that the United States, the European countries and the countries in the Middle East all attach great importance to the security of a port. As for anti-terrorism and anti-smuggling efforts, which are compulsory tasks for any port, human intervention is needed.

Confronted with automation trends in the ports across the world, we still rely on physical human inspection. It is possible that in the future, more and more jobs will be done by robots. But we have to admit that it is men who program robots. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Ma Xiaochun,Bianji)

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