Working as a longshoreman

The name Longshoreman came from 'those working along the shore'.These days a longshoreman is a dock worker.

Essentially longshoremen load and unload ships. They're employed by stevedoring companies. Maritime trade and freight is at an all time high, and the longshoreman isn't likely to get bored.

Legally, longshoremen are employed as 'non-seamen',making the distinction between the laws that cover employment as a longshoreman and maritime employment.

The work involves a long list of handling processes, ranging across most industries. Modern container ships carry tens of thousands of tons of cargo, and the vast bulk of goods and commodities global trade will wind up on a ship at some point.

Loading a big ship is a science, and because of the huge diversity of goods and materials carried, a longshoreman is likely to become an expert in freight logistics and processes.

The work can require a lot of knowledge and experience.Goods carried are all handled under a complex, high precision, global process of shipping practices.

This process is a beginning to end operation, applying to any goods shipped, which covers everything from 'bills of lading' (detailed inventories of goods shipped) to quite literally placing the goods on the ship according to a loading plan.

Longshoremen are obviously involved in the loading, but from square one, it's a demanding situation, and a lot of money and property is involved, at least millions per ship, usually. So people care what happens to their goods.

It's not all just a matter of just putting containers on a ship or taking them off. If cargo needs to be handled, it has to be handled properly, and that's the longshoremen's responsibility.

Loads are planned, and some things are loaded first, etc, so the cargo is literally designed for unloading at its destination. Not all ships are the same, either, so the ship's ability to load and unload is another factor in the longshoremen's work.

To give some indication of the importance of this work, a load can seriously damage a ship. Thousands of tons of dead weight have to be properly organized, and securely loaded. You can imagine the likely effects of that sort of weight moving around on a vessel at sea.

Moving cargo can destroy goods and people, on ships and on docks, and it regularly does, in areas where handling is poor.

Companies prefer their ships to be loaded by people who know what they're doing, which is why longshoremen are valued for their abilities. 

The work varies from skilled, licensed work, like crane operators to relatively unskilled, low-end jobs which are basically laboring work.

However, it's a big industry, worth billions a day, and careers can be made by those who have the commitment.

That commitment can bring a very lucrative reward. Longshoremen can make a lot of money, sometimes much more than some office jobs.Work is plentiful, basic pay rates for skilled workers are good, and so is the overtime.

Major issues in employment for longshoremen are occupational health and safety, compensation, and, naturally, pay and conditions. Industrial safety is a particularly important issue in the industry. Work safety practices globally vary from high standards in most Western ports to appallingly dangerous conditions in

In some countries, workers are required to have OHS qualifications as part of their essential criteria for employment.

There are also levels or 'degrees' of longshoremen's employment, casual, part time, permanent, skilled, and unskilled.

The high paying jobs are naturally all for skilled, qualified, professionals.

For longshoremen, there's one basic qualification: casual and 'regular longshoremen', who are registered as longshoremen by harbor authorities.

The benchmark for a regular in the country-region is 2000 hours work, to qualify to make an application to be a registered longshoreman.

Even in the country-region, there are some basic labor and working conditions issues for longshoremen, and being a casual is no picnic.

Casual is the low end of the spectrum, and it's just plain tough.

Pay varies, work is irregular, and the distinction between casuals and regulars is like day labor and doctors.

So is the pay. It's the registered longshoremen who make the big money.

(Getting that 2000 hours isn't necessarily easy. Some longshoremen have posted stories of literally taking years to get those hours.)

The industry is worth a look on its merits, and the pay for professionals and regulars is good.

However, there's an obvious level of caution required for job seekers regarding the casual work.

Job seekers are strongly advised to check with local contacts, union reps, and other people with first hand knowledge of conditions before applying.

It's also obviously well worth figuring out how long it will take you to get the 2000 hours.

People in the industry say that working as a casual has some advantages if you can add it to a regular income.

That way you can qualify for registration without being dependent on the availability of work and the vagaries of employers.

Sounds like good advice