Longshoremen and the loss of geographic advantage


The rise of containerized shipping and intermodals has completely remade the shipping industry, and it serves as a model for the change in the entire economy.

The New York Times profiled the changes to jobs at New York area ports, in On the Waterfront, the Rise of the Machines. The old way of distributing work has “gone the way of the buffalo” one worker put it. Standard shipping containers led to automation and a complete remaking of ports, infrastructure and jobs. High cost ports find themselves subjected to a “port arbitrage” as shippers can choose to work with any number of modernized ports.

The entire economy is being remade in a similar way. All kinds of jobs and infrastructure are being remade and subjected to an economic arbitrage. It’s a threat to established patterns, but also an opportunity for new developments.

Just like there are fewer “old line” port jobs but new jobs in port construction and development of technology, old jobs in all parts of the country (and world) are being replaced by fewer jobs and more “make your own” opportunities.

[Intermodals photo by Becky McCray.]