Longshore workers (also referred to as dock workers) work the docks in
teams called "gangs." They work at piers and ports, and for marine cargo handling
companies, shipping agencies and shipping lines. They load and unload cargo
on and off ships that come into port, and receive and deliver cargo to or
from piers and terminals using material handling machinery and equipment.
Longshore workers operate industrial trucks, tractors, backhoes, forklifts,
dock cranes and other mobile equipment to transfer cargo. They also operate
equipment to transfer bulk items, such as grain, to vessel holds and vessel
Longshore workers also help incoming ships by fastening their lines. They
may serve as porters and carry the luggage of passengers on passenger vessels.
Because there are so many different tasks involved in loading and unloading
cargo, there are several kinds of dockworkers.
Checkers are responsible for inspecting the cargo, and writing
down the type of cargo, its bulk and name of the ship.
Gear repairers keep all of the loading equipment in good shape.
Lift truck operators drive the special trucks that carry the heavy
Winch operators operate the winches.
Most longshore crews in major seaports work throughout the year. They must
work quickly while the ships are in port, sometimes working in excess of 24
hours at a time to load a ship before it sets sail. Even longshore workers
who can depend on a year-round shipping season often work for different employers
from day to day. In most ports, unions and employers have "hiring halls" where
longshore workers register.
The work is often dangerous and requires physical strength and endurance.
"The work is physically challenging, and it's worth it since I'm using this
experience as a stepping-stone to move up," says Lori Acalin.
Good eyesight and hearing are important. Since they work on piers along
the waterfront, longshore workers deal with all kinds of weather. They must
be able to follow orders, and be willing to accept some uncertainty in their
Bill Hill is a longshore worker. He says his job is kind of an adventure.
"You have to be a little bit adventuresome to do the longshore thing," he
Transfer materials on and off ships