How to Get a Longshoreman Job

Widest of shipping port
Widest of shipping port (Image: nattanan726/iStock/Getty Images)

During Colonial times, ship crews were responsible for loading and unloading ship cargo. Today, this task is carried out by longshoremen who work at ports, docks and piers. Longshoremen—also known as longshore and dock workers—receive and transfer the containers that arrive on ships from all over the world. These professionals usually work in organized crews and employ machinery to move everything from automobiles to petroleum on and off the ships. Since longshoreman jobs are heavily unionized, longshore candidates often start their job search with unions or contractor companies to break into the field.

Obtain a high school diploma and acquire the basic math, reading, oral communication and listening skills necessary to operate efficiently as a longshoreman. Possess good health and excellent physical endurance, since longshoreman jobs require workers to lift, push and move heavy boxes, machines and containers.

Visit your local union office to check hiring methods for longshoreman jobs. Research stevedoring firms as an alternative, as these companies also hire longshoremen for contract work. Register your name with a hiring hall--a recruitment organization that works with labor unions--to be in line for work as jobs becomes available.

Find out whether professional associations such as the International Longshoremen’s Association have available openings for dock workers. Speak with local union officials to find out whether there are also jobs as casuals or unskilled workers. Consider joining a union to obtain steady and regular employment, since most associations only hire union members.

Show up at meeting places on docks and piers at a specified time for a shape-up. Shape-ups are designated at an area where hiring supervisors from stevedoring companies select longshoremen for daily shipping jobs. Be cognizant that potential workers must sometimes wait for long periods of time before being selected.

Jumpstart your own stevedoring firm or dockworking company to advance your career as a longshoreman. Learn new skills and obtain leadership experience to move to a pier superintendent or supervisor position.

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