• Capabilities: Construct, Digital Innovation
  • Sectors: Transportation, Ports and Industrial Infrastructure

Port of Los Angeles First Automated Port on U.S. West Coast

Los Angeles, California, United States - As the leading gateway for trade between the U.S. and Asia, the Port of Los Angeles must be ready for the next generation of container ships.


automated terminal for the Port of Los Angeles

32,000 Linear Feet

of new rail on concrete ties and ballast

Due to growing competition, the Port of Los Angeles (America’s Port®) must confront the dynamic and changing shipping and trade industry head-on. To meet those challenges, the port pledged $1 billion in capital improvements over the next several years, making automation a priority. In 2016, Arcadis completed construction management services for phases 2-4 at the Port of Los Angeles to create a $207 million, technologically-advanced, automated container terminal for TraPac.

Overview of an automated port

The Port of Los Angeles has been the number one port in the United States since 2000 in terms of container volume and value, handling a capacity of 8.1 million, twenty-foot-equivalent container units (TEUs) annually and a cargo value in excess of $290 billion, which is a quarter of all cargo entering the United States. The terminal spans 7,500 acres along 42 miles of waterfront and includes 270 berths, 16 marinas and 27 terminals.

Innovative automation

The Port’s TraPac Terminal is the first terminal in the world to implement driverless, automated straddle carriers that work in concert with automated stacking cranes (ASC). Automation results in more-efficient use of capital assets, less downtime, reduced human error, lower capital and human asset costs, increased productivity, and increased safety. There’s also a sustainability benefit of generating lower emissions. An automated port also allows for more cargo to move through the same-size terminal footprint.

TraPac Terminal - under construction
Ship-to-shore cranes
Automated straddle carriers
Automated stacking cranes
Driverless automated straddle carriers

How it works

Think self-driving cars; the TraPac terminal modernization program features electrically-powered, automated straddle carriers that are guided across the terminal by thousands of embedded magnets, lasers and differential GPS. The driverless straddle carriers, so called because they straddle the containers, pick up containers offloaded from ships and efficiently move them to stacking cranes. The towering electric stacking cranes then glide effortlessly and automatically across rails to sort and stack the shipping containers in a storage area called blocks while they await loading onto trucks or freight trains. The unique design of the ASC system accommodates a total container stack length of 37 total ground slots (four containers high and eight containers wide). When a truck arrives to haul away one of the containers, the ASC retrieves the container and lowers it onto a truck bed. The automatic straddle carriers can also move containers to an onsite rail yard for loading onto freight trains. The freight trains then connect to the national rail system via a 20-mile below-grade rail line through the heart of Los Angeles.

Award-winning project

Arcadis worked with the Port of LA and TraPac to reschedule the project phasing in order to provide more stacking areas to TraPac sooner than originally scheduled, a huge benefit to TraPac. Arcadis completed the project in late 2016 two months ahead of schedule with no contractor claims for delays or cost, saving the port nearly $700,000 in construction and construction management costs. The advanced timeframe allowed for occupation and utilization of the newly created stacking areas to generate revenues sooner than expected. America’s Port® is now big-ship ready and is the first automated port operating on the West Coast. The Arcadis team also demonstrated a strong commitment to worker safety on this project as evidenced by its delivery of this 250,000-hour project with no lost time accidents or other OSHA/CALOSHA recordables, an extraordinary statistic for a port construction project.

This project received the 2014 WTS-LA Innovative Transportation Solutions Award.

“Partnering with Arcadis on the Backlands Improvements Berths 142-143 project was one of the most positive experiences I have had as a Construction Manager.”

–Kevin Harbor, P.E., Civil Engineer, Port of Los Angeles (Berth 142-143 Backlands)



automated terminal for the Port of Los Angeles

32,000 Linear Feet

of new rail on concrete ties and ballast

250,000-hour project

no lost time accidents or other OSHA/CALOSHA recordables

Questions about this project

Craig Halvorson

Senior Vice President, Transportation 714 508 2616 Ask me a question
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