Things are shipped by sea around the world everyday. With a few clicks of your mouse you can order almost anything from places like China, France, or Australia. But how does it get to you? What happens between Japan and your front door? Many items would never make it to your house without the help a stevedore.
Stevedores work in ports along our country’s coast where they manage the loading and unloading of cargo containers from the bellies of giant ships. Every port and container terminal has a stevedore on-duty at all times. He is responsible for the safe moving and stowing of everything that is shipped by sea – frozen goods, electronics, cars, hazardous materials, minerals, or just about anything.
Stevedores work outdoors on the waterfront. They are in and out of giant cargo ships all day. They go from the wharf to the container terminal to the cargo holds to unload and load ships. Sometimes they will find themselves inside completing paperwork, but most of the time they are right in the action. They usually work with or manage a team of dockworkers or longshoremen who help coordinate and move the cargo.
When a ship comes into port, a stevedore greets it and moors the ship to the wharf. Once it is docked, they use heavy machinery like straddle carriers, cranes, ship cranes, and forklifts to unload the ship and move cargo containers onto trucks or trains for further transportation. They must also inspect the containers for any damage. It is physically demanding work that continues despite the weather.
When a boat is about to launch, it is the stevedore’s job to manage the safe loading of the ship. They are responsible for stowing and positioning the cargo for proper balance. Then they must secure it with rigging and lashings to prevent it from moving while the ship is at sea. (This is the origin of the well-known stevedore knot.) Finally, it is inspected and if necessary reloaded for safety.
A stevedore’s main responsibility is the safety of the team and cargo. When moving multi-ton cargo containers full of cars or televisions, one wrong move and a person could be crushed. The crew utilizes handheld radios to communicate between the ship’s hold, the dock, and the cranes. Stevedores can work in most weather, but not in high winds. If a cargo container is swaying back and forth in hurricane force gusts, there won’t be a happy ending.
Ships come into port at all hours of the day and night. Stevedores work shifts or are on-call so that they are always ready to meet the ships. This means working very odd hours. The hours, or shifts, may be more regular if the stevedore works at a busy port city where ships are always coming and going.
Technically a stevedore needs no formal education, but they are required to have a heavy machinery driver’s license to operate the equipment necessary to load and unload containers.
Most stevedores learn skills on the job, but many have a basic understanding of ships and water before they apply for a job.
Stevedores work for stevedoring companies that hire dockworkers or for the port authorities of major cities. The ideal place to be a stevedore is at a very busy port with lots of ship traffic. In smaller ports, consistent work may be challenging to find.
Stevedores can make $35,000 to $90,000 per year, but average about $43,000. Most stevedores join unions like the International Longshoremen’s Association for the East Coast or the International Longshore and Warehouse Union if they work on the West Coast.
If you enjoy working outdoors, next to the waterfront, and operating heavy machinery consider looking for a stevedore job.
Quick Facts About Stevedore Employment
Job Title: Stevedore, Dockworker, Longshoremen
Office: On the docks
Description: Manages loading and unloading cargo from a ship
Certifications/Education: No Formal Education Necessary, Heavy Machinery Driver License
Necessary Skills: Physically Fit, Knowledge of Ships
Potential Employers: Stevedoring Companies, Port Authority
Pay: $35,000 to $90,000, average is $43,000