Any idea what a modern stevedore does? We asked our Supermaritime stevedore to tell us about his work.
“I am an operations manager within our stevedore company, and I plan all the work for my fellow stevedores. My working day starts at about half past six with preparing the first things for that day. Fifteen minutes later I have a meeting with the foremen about what we are going to load that day and which crews and materials are needed. Of course, I planned this at an earlier stage, so that we have sufficient people and machines to handle the cargo for that day.
Sea-going ships dock here at our quay in Vlissingen daily. It is our job to load the cargo on board of these ships. The cargo can be comprised of anything imaginable. Ranging from foodstuffs and general cargo to entire trucks and containers. The cargo has previously been delivered to our location by our clients by lorry and must then be transported further by sea freight.
Loading ships today is different than it used to be. In the past, the work of a stevedore involved a lot of lifting and hauling, but today nearly everything is done by machines, such as forklift trucks, reach stackers and terminal tractors. The work of the stevedore has therefore become somewhat lighter, but can still be quite heavy due to, for example, weather conditions and being on your feet for hours.
We generally load the ships in about 16 hours. Usually, we manage to finish our work the same day in the evening, but sometimes we have to do a night shift or even continue the next day. Ships do not always arrive on time, sometimes hours later or a day earlier. The same goes for the cargo, sometimes cargoes can be dropped or added last-minute. This creates considerable planning challenges.
Besides the fact that I have to coordinate our planning as well as possible with potential changes in mind, there is also a considerable amount of time pressure for the client. A seagoing ship can easily cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per day, therefore delays have far-reaching consequences. As a result, our work as stevedores can be quite stressful, but I like this work dynamic. If everything goes well in the end, I also enjoy the delivered result twice as much.
Once the ship is fully loaded, it can depart. Then, the quay is free for the next ship, and early the next day, we are ready for a new challenge.”