Stevedores are those people who load and discharge cargoes. For each hold being worked, conventional cargoships required teams of about 12 men on the wharf and 12 men in the hold. A five-hatch cargoship working all holds would require about 120 men for one shift. If the ship was to work more than one shift, several hundred stevedores would be required. Modern multi-purpose ships also require large numbers of stevedores to handle break-bulk, neo-bulk or palletized cargoes.


Loading break-bulk cargo. Individual items need to be lashed down in the holds, requiring a large team of stevedores.  Photograph : Brian Ingpen


In the last few decades, cargowork has been mechanised. Stevedore teams now include people who can operate machinery such as fork-lift trucks, ships’ cranes, various types of shiploaders for bulk cargoes.

To handle containers, stevedores need to be numerate and computer literate as they do the various tasks such as checking container numbers, container seals and entering details into the hand-held computer keyboards. Stevedores need to ensure that twist-locks are in place before the containers are loaded onto the deck of containerships or atop another container, that the twist-locks are locked before the ship sails, and that outboard containers are lashed to the deck with lashing rods. On the ship’s arrival at a port, stevedores need to unlock the twist-locks and unlash for all containers to be discharged. Numbers of stevedores required for a containership are far lower than for a ship working break-bulk cargo. Those containers loaded below deck on a containership fit into the fixed slots and do not require any stevedores.