Dockworkers unload cargo from ships when they come into port. Sometimes called longshoremen, dockworkers often work varying shifts and may have part-time or full-time hours. The work they do is hard and getting hired isn't easy, as automated loading technologies have replaced dockworkers at some ports. For those who can find work, however, the salary and benefits are very good. According to the International Business Times, full-time longshoremen averaged more than $124,000 a year in pay and benefits in 2012, based on union contracts. Ninety-five percent of all longshoremen are members of a union, says StateUniversity.com. The International Longshoremen's Association is the largest union for dockworkers in the country, according to the ILA.
Duties and Responsibilities
As a dockworker, your main responsibility is to transfer cargo from a ship to the dock as safely and efficiently as possible. You also tie ships off to the moorings when they come in, and you may be responsible for installing the gangway and hooking the ship up to the dock's power and phone lines. In addition, dockworkers inspect the cargo for signs of damage or loss, and record shipping and receiving documents. You open cargo, arrange shipped materials onto pallets and prepare them for pickup by truck drivers. Other duties might include keeping the dock clean and fully functioning, cleaning the oil boom and extending the boom for the ship's use.
Working with Machinery
Being a longshoreman means working with a variety of equipment. You will likely use a forklift or winch to haul cargo from the ship, often with an attachment like a hook, pincer or sling, depending on the type of cargo it is. Some cargo has to be removed individually using a pallet jack, hand truck or simply by hand. Liquid cargo may have to be removed by attaching a hose to the container and siphoning it off into a container on dock.
Education and Training
There are no formal educational requirements for becoming a dockworker, though you may need a forklift certification and a valid driver's license. What you definitely will need is to be physically strong, able to work long hours and have great stamina. The job entails a great deal of pushing, pulling and lifting weights that might be 70 pounds or more. You must also communicate well with others and be able to work as a team, as you'll constantly be receiving or giving signals on moving, lifting and adjusting cargo.
Dockworkers face the hazard of working around large, moving machinery all day. You'll have to work long hours no matter the weather conditions and may be exposed to extreme heat, cold, humidity and rain for extended periods of time. You may occasionally have to work from a great height and handle chemicals and toxins, depending on the type of cargo you receive. The noise level on a dock is usually quite high and there's little chance of getting relief from it.