Dock Worker Job Description
Dock Workers, also known as Longshoremen, are responsible for unloading cargo from ships at port. This is a heavy physical labor job, although it also requires teamwork and a good command of loading technology such as forklifts. Job duties include transferring cargo from the ship to the dock safely and efficiently, as well as securing ships and handling unloading set-up, such as preparing the gangway. Dock Workers also are responsible for cargo inspection, and marking down any damaged or lost items. They keep track of cargo inventory and document any irregularities. They may also be responsible for standard dock maintenance, keeping the facility clean and fully functioning. The job usually entails long hours, starting very early in the morning when the first ships come in. There is a certain amount of risk entailed in any position involving labor and heavy machinery. Dock Workers are typically unionized, and as such the job comes with benefits, time off and a competitive salary. However, the outlook for the job is questionable, as automated unloading technology is becoming more common among shipping industries. As such, a modern dock worker will be well-served by becoming versed in modern technology.
Dock Worker Duties and Responsibilities
The duties of a Dock Worker center around the ships coming into the dock every day. For each ship, the Dock Worker must prepare the dock for receiving. This includes installing the gangway and ensuring the oil boom is properly maintained. Once the ship is in the port, the Dock Worker hooks it up to the mooring and then unloads the cargo efficiently, often with the use of a forklift. They then take inventory of the cargo and note any irregularities, record the cargo and prepare the ship for departure. More specific job duties will often include:
Perhaps the most important job of a Dock Worker is making sure that any ship that comes into port is fully secured. This includes tying the ship to the moorings, deploying the oil boom and hooking up shore power as needed. It is also key to monitor tidal fluctuation to make any necessary adjustments to the ship level.
Dock Workers will usually be responsible for basic maintenance of the dock facilities and surrounding area. This will include standard cleaning duties, as well as more technical tasks such as oiling and testing machinery.
For any cargo that comes in, the Dock Worker is responsible for inspecting it for damage or loss. This is especially important for perishable or valuable cargo. Dock Workers will generally record this information on inspection sheets and input it into computer software.
Dock Worker is a position involving heavy machinery and cargo, as well as working with potentially dangerous substances. As such, Dock Workers are responsible for checking and double-checking security and safety measures.
Dock Worker Skills
Dock Workers require skills typical of both a physical laborer and a detail-oriented manager. They must be well-versed in technical use of heavy machinery, as well as in safety procedures. Responsible for millions of dollars in cargo going in and out of major ports, it is key that they be able to keep track of details and spot any missing or damaged cargo. Dock Workers will generally work in teams, and must be able to cooperate and communicate effectively. Some more specific skills needed include:
Attention to Detail – Each shipment of cargo can contain millions of dollars worth in product. A Dock Worker must be able to keep track of every one and notice any irregularities. In the same vein, a minor error in machine use can be dangerous. A keen eye for detail and procedure is essential for success in the field.
Teamwork and Communication – It may take a team of workers to effectively unload a ship’s cargo. As such, a rapport between workers is essential. Good communication with ship crew can help to ensure a smooth transition as well.
Strength and Endurance – Although the job of a Dock Worker now entails more technical skill, it still relies on physical strength to a large extent. Dock Workers will also be required to work in all weather, and should have a strong tolerance for the elements.
Dock Worker Salary
Dock Worker is generally an hourly position. The average pay rate according to online sources is $15.23 a year, which comes out to $35,000 a year. The low end of the salary range is roughly $21,000 a year, while high end can go up to $45,000 a year. However, Dock Worker is generally a unionized position and comes with health and pension benefits.
Dock Worker Educational Requirements
Dock Workers generally do not require formal degrees, as most positions require only a high-school diploma or a GED. However, it is common for additional training courses to be required. This will include forklift training, and on-the-job apprenticeships to become acquainted with the machinery and tools. Dock Manager positions will generally require experience as a Dock Worker, and will also require management training and classes. A Bachelor’s Degree in management may allow for a quick ascent to a management position.
Dock Worker Tools of the Trade
Dock Workers employ specialized machinery and technical tools to accomplish their duties. Some of these tools will include:
Gangway – This is the raised walkway that Dock Workers connect from the dock to the shop to make for easy unloading.
Forklift - Many cargo loads can weigh far more than any team of humans could unload. Forklifts are used to carry these loads from cargo hold to dock storage.
Moorings - Ships must be properly secured to the dock before unloading can begin. Dock Workers use moorings attached to the dock to tie the ship securely.
Cargo Sheets and Spreadsheets - Keeping track of cargo is generally a two-part affair. Dock workers will tally the cargo by hand on-site, and later input it into an online spreadsheet to send to management.
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