Waterside Worker

Transport and Travel


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Practical or MechanicalSkill Level 1Skill Level 2

Waterside workers stack, check and secure contents of shipping containers prepared for storage or despatch. Stevedores work in ports, moving cargo between ships and other forms of transport. These workers are responsible for loading and unloading cargo transported to and from ships by trucks, trains and other ships. They are also responsible for mooring and unmooring ships, FutureGrowthModerate ensuring that cargo is safely secured and may be required to complete paperwork for the transfer of cargo.

ANZSCO description:
891113: Transfers cargo between ships and other forms of transport or storage facilities.

Alternative names: Dock Worker, Docker, Longshoreman, Stevedore, Wharf Labourer, Wharf Labourer, Wharfie

Knowledge, skills and attributes

A stevedore needs:

  • to be physically fit and able to lift heavy loads

  • the ablity to work as part of a team

  • practical and manual skills

  • to be safety conscious

  • good communication skills

Duties and Tasks

Waterside workers may perform the following tasks: Waterside Worker

  • pack and unpack containers, open and close hatches, and secure cargo to prevent it shifting during voyages

  • clean holds and containers and prepare stevedoring (ship-loading) gear

  • operate a wide range of light and heavy machinery, including forklifts, skid steer loaders, front-end loaders and a variety of cranes

  • monitor and control the refrigeration plant and perform mechanical maintenance on refrigerated containers

  • perform a wide range of clerical duties such as recording and checking cargo on arrival, storage or despatch

  • direct equipment operations using various types of communication systems

  • moor and unmoor ships on arrival and departure

  • stack cargo on pallets, trays, flats and slings to facilitate transfer to and from ships

  • operate and perform minor maintenance on forklifts, trucks, front end loaders and fixed or mobile cranes

  • act as team leader for a wharf or on-ship work team.

  • Receiving instructions by radio telephone and/or radio data terminal to load, unload or move cargo.

  • Securing and releasing mooring lines of ships.

  • Opening and closing ship hatches.

  • Transferring loads using moving equipment and directing equipment operations using communication systems.

  • Stacking cargo on pallets, trays, flats and slings to facilitate transfer to and from ships.

  • Operating heavy vehicles and machinery, such as straddle carriers, fork-lifts and ships' cranes, to load and unload cargo from trucks, ships and rail transport services.

  • Sorting cargo before loading and unloading.

  • Labelling goods with customers' details and destinations.

  • Loading goods into trucks, containers and rail wagons, and securing loads.

  • Assisting to tie down loads and covering them with tarpaulins.

  • Guiding truck drivers into loading bays and through confined spaces.

  • Performing clerical functions to record and check cargo on arrival, storage and dispatch.

  • Positioning goods in the holds of ships and securing cargo to prevent shifting during voyages.

  • Packing containers and re-packing damaged containers.

  • Cleaning out ships' tanks and holds.

  • Washing out containers and carrying out other general yard duties such as shunting on the railway.

  • Arranging for damaged containers of hazardous material to be quarantined.

  • Carrying out safety checks.


Working conditionsWaterside Workers

Waterside workers usually work outdoors in ports, container terminals and the holds of ships. Stevedores often work outdoors in most weather conditions, although very strong wind may cause work to stop. They may also work in the cargo holds of ships and with frozen or dangerous goods. It is a potentially hazardous work environment, and strict safety procedures must be followed to minimise the dangers. They must also wear protective clothing such as hard hats, safety boots and reflective jackets. Ports generally operate 24 hours a day, every day of the year, meaning stevedores are required to work shifts, which may include nights, weekends and public holidays.

Tools and technologies

Stevedores use a range of heavy machinery to load and unload cargo, including forklifts, straddle carriers and gantry cranes. Netting, straps and ropes are used to securely lash cargo into place once it has been loaded to avoid damage while in transit. Radios may also be used to communicate with other workers.

Education and training/entrance requirements

You can work as a waterside worker without any formal qualifications and get training on the job.

You can also become a waterside worker by completing a traineeship. A stevedoring traineeship usually takes between 12 and 24 months to complete.

​You may also have to obtain a High Risk Work Licence from WorkSafe. In the course of your employment, additional licences and tickets to operate other forms of machinery may be required.

Did You Know?

"Stevedore, dockworker, docker, dock labourer, wharfie and longshoreman can have various waterfront-related meanings concerning loading and unloading ships, according to place and country.

The word stevedore originated in Portugal or Spain, and entered the English language through its use by sailors. It started as a phonetic spelling of estivador (Portuguese) or estibador (Spanish), meaning a man who stuffs, here in the sense of a man who loads ships, which was the original meaning of stevedore; compare Latin stīpāre meaning to stuff, as in to fill with stuffing.

In the United Kingdom, men who load and unload ships are usually called dockers, while in the United States and Canada the term longshoreman, derived from man-along-the-shore, is used. (Before extensive use of container ships and shore-based handling machinery in the U.S., longshoremen referred exclusively to the dockworkers, while stevedores, in a separate trade union, worked on the ships, operating ship's cranes and moving cargo.)

Waterside Worker
In Australia, stevedores or dockers were historically referred to as wharf labourers or waterside workers, and were colloquially called "wharfies". The Maritime Union of Australia has coverage of these workers, and fought a substantial industrial battle in the 1998 Australian waterfront dispute to prevent the contracting out of work to non-union contractors. The term "Docker" is in modern colloquial use, as evidenced by the port-based Fremantle Football Club's official nickname of the "Freo Dockers" although the term "wharfie" is still more commonly used in other states."
(Source: Wikipedia)

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