Time spent in port must be as streamlined and as efficient as possible, in order to make the most profit from ship owning or chartering. Ships earn their keep from the carriage of cargos from port to port, not by sitting in port loading or discharging cargo. In fact a ship is penalized for spending more then its allotted time in port, so it is vital that the turnaround is completed as safely as possible in the least amount of time.
Stevedores, also known as dockers or longshoremen in North America, are the port workers tasked with the job of unloading and loading of ships on the quayside and stowing cargo in the hold as quickly as possible.
Stevedores, whether as individuals or companies, must be expert planners with good integrated systems, to ensure that not a moment is lost in exchanging the cargo, whether that be containers, cars, dry bulk, forest products or any other cargo handled by ports. As an example, for containers, stevedores need to arrange the stowage of cargoes on the quayside so that the one on the bottom of the stack is not scheduled to be loaded before the one on top of it. Likewise, onboard the ship the order of stowage is just as important, partly for stability, but also for quick discharge at the end destination. At car import terminals, stevedores will need to arrange damage-free discharge from multiple-decked car carriers, and might also need to perform added-value services, for example removing the protective packing and grease, ensuring that the cars are ready for the salesroom.
As is evident from these examples, the stevedore’s job involves more than mere labouring. It is skilled work that requires operation of loading equipment, proper packing and unpacking techniques for cargo, and the correct handling of hazardous materials. Linesman, crane or forklift drivers and tally clerks would all come under the broad umbrella of stevedores.
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