Stevedore jobs are varied but the number-one responsibility in this type of work concerns the safety of cargo and crew. Also called longshoremen, ship loaders, and dock workers, stevedores unload cargo from ships that come into port and load ships before they leave. These workers manipulate large cranes and forklifts to move huge cargo containers filled with goods.
One of the duties of those working in stevedore jobs is meeting every ship as it comes into port. The stevedore helps berth the vessel and assembles a crew for unloading cargo. Every port employs a stevedore who must be available 24 hours a day, since ships enter and leave on irregular schedules.
A common component of stevedore jobs constitutes inspecting merchandise for any damage that might have occurred at sea. He or she examines containers and records any breakage to create a permanent record. Once that duty is complete, the stevedore organizes and supervises the safe unloading of containers from the ship’s hold.
A group of dockworkers commonly communicate via handheld radios to coordinate the operation of cranes and other heavy equipment. Cargo is transferred from the ship to trains or trucks for transportation to warehouses or stores. These containers might house automobiles, pallets of food products, chemicals, or any material that can be shipped by sea.
When ships prepare to leave port, the stevedore inspects cargo to ensure proper balance of the load. Damage or injury might occur if a large load of goods shifts during inclement weather. Stevedores use ropes and other equipment to secure the load for safe transportation.
Port authorities typically hire stevedores to oversee the loading and unloading of cargo ships. Busier ports provide more work and may require more than one person in this position to handle the job. People working in stevedore jobs usually do not need higher education but must acquire licenses to operate heavy machinery. Many people who enter this job market enjoy ships and working outdoors.
Stevedores must be able to endure heat, rain, and wind. Some of a stevedore’s duties involve working in cargo holds in the belly of a ship. People in this position must be able to work well with others and have good communication skills, since communication is essential to prevent accidents during the loading and unloading of cargo containers.
How Much Does a Stevedore Make?
The median salary for stevedores in the United States is around $50,000. If you start in an entry-level position, you will likely be on the lower end of the pay scale, but you will have opportunities to earn more as you gain experience and skills. Salary depends on several factors.
Experienced stevedores earn more. Some companies will hire workers with no experience and provide on-the-job training. These positions offer the lowest starting pay, but you can increase your salary with training and experience.
Education and Training
In addition to the required training, there are additional training opportunities for stevedores that can lead to promotions and increased salaries. For example, stevedores who complete advanced safety training courses may be eligible for higher-paying management and leadership roles.
Completing advanced training also makes you more hireable. If you need to find another job in stevedoring or a similar occupation, it is easier to find a good position in your desired salary range if you have more training and certifications.
Depending on the jurisdiction, a license may be required to operate forklifts and other machinery. Generally, jobs with specific licensing requirements pay a higher wage, as the applicant pool is more limited.
Cargo ships dock at all hours, requiring stevedores to be available at any time. Stevedores typically work in shifts to ensure constant coverage. This means you will most likely need to work some overtime and overnight shifts. Many stevedores receive overtime and shift differential pay in addition to their normal wages.
How To Become a Stevedore
Becoming a stevedore does not require formal education, but it does require training, skill and, in some states, licensing.
Education and Certification
You can become a stevedore with no formal education. Some employers require a high school diploma or GED, but it is possible to get hired even without a high school education if you have the necessary skills. Regardless of your educational background, you will most likely need to take some courses and obtain certifications.
Some states require stevedores to complete Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) Maritime Training. For an entry-level position, you must complete the basic 10-hour course, but advanced 30-hour courses are available and can make you eligible for a higher position. Your employer may require you to receive special training to work with hazardous materials, as you will likely encounter these in your work.
Most employers look for candidates with previous experience operating heavy machinery, but some will offer on-the-job training. In some states, you need a license to operate heavy machinery. It is easier to get hired as a stevedore if you are licensed and experienced in heavy machinery operation.
Stevedores work as a team. Safety, efficiency, communication and compliance are essential to the job. Ideal candidates have strong organizational and communication skills. You must be able to follow written procedures, ensuring safe handling of cargo and adherence to safety protocols.
As a stevedore, your hours are often long and irregular. You must have the flexibility, work ethic and physical stamina to work overtime and late shifts when needed. If you prefer a job with regular hours and no overtime, stevedoring is not the ideal occupation for you.
Stevedore vs. Longshoreman
Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, there are subtle differences between a stevedore and a longshoreman. The definitions have evolved over the years as the industry has changed.
Historically, stevedores worked on cargo ships, operating the cranes that loaded and unloaded cargo. Their name came from the Spanish word estibador, meaning "a man who stuffs," because their job was to "stuff" or load the ship with cargo.
During this time, longshoremen, whose name means "men along the shore," were dockworkers who moved the cargo by hand. The use of machinery on the dock to move cargo had not yet become commonplace. Longshore work and stevedoring were distinct occupations with separate trade unions.
As container ships became more commonplace, it became necessary for workers on the shore to use machinery to unload cargo. In the present day, the jobs of longshoremen and stevedores overlap. Both work on the dock and use machinery to load and unload cargo.
There remain some differences between the two occupations. Generally, a stevedore is a person or company contracted to handle the cargo, while longshoremen, also called by the gender-neutral name longshore workers, are the people who work for the stevedore. Nevertheless, many people still refer to longshore workers as stevedores, and vice versa.