Stevedoring is an occupation which involves loading and unloading of cargo on ships, as well as all the logistics and administrative work associated with this.
The word stevedore is thought to originate in Portugal or Spain, and entered the English language through its use by sailors. It started as a phonetic spelling of “estivador” in Portuguese or “estibador” in Spanish, meaning a man who stuffs. (And in the shipping world, the word 'stuffing' is indeed used for 'loading' a container.)
Historically, stevedores boarded merchant vessels immediately as the vessel entered a harbour to begin manually loading and unloading cargo. With the arrival of containerization and mechanisation however, the nature of the job has changed somewhat and the modern stevedore is equipped with a wide range of cargo handling gear, rendering the job much more efficient. Indeed forklifts, side lifters, cranes, conveyor belts and fish loaders are now the order of the day in the stevedoring world.
As far as stevedoring in Hunt Deltel goes, our department's efforts are focussed on the offloading and loading at Port Victoria of commercially fished tuna, salt and ships' stores. By tradition stevedores are hired on a casual basis and are remunerated in relation to the total tonnage of tuna or salt loaded during their shift.
There are no specific educational requirements for someone who wants to become a stevedore. However there are a number of qualities and skills required to perform the job to the standard expected:
Physical fitness & strength. The company makes provisions for a medical test to be undertaken by all stevedores, free of charge, so as to confirm their suitability for lengthy hours of heavy lifting in all weather conditions.
Awareness of health & safety hazards, preventative measures and regulatory requirements. The company provides safety equipment protecting the stevedores from head to toe. It is the responsibility of the duty officer and the stevedores themselves to ensure their equipment is worn throughout their shift.
Flexibility with regards to working hours. Once recruited, stevedores are assigned to a team which are called on rotation by radio. Work is organized on a shift basis from Monday to Sunday including public holidays. Alternating 2.5 hour periods of work and rest are scheduled from 8am to 5pm. When work must continue past 5pm in order to finish the day's load, food, transport and cash bonuses are given.
Discipline with regards to following instructions. Every stevedoring shift begins with a briefing from the shift supervisor, who will divide the 'gang' or 'team' according to the tasks at hand.
Tasks onboard a fishing vessel include fish sorting according to size and species on the fishing vessel, shifting fish from one hatch to another onboard the fishing vessel, shifting fish onto an adjacent reefer vessel (a vessel with the specific purpose of transporting frozen fish overseas), fish loader (located on the quay, channelling fish into a reefer container to be loaded onto a cargo ship) or a 'hopper' (large steel tank which is brought straight to IOT tuna factory), 'opening of the wells' known in Creole as 'Fer Lagel' onboard the reefer vessel, ‘trimming' which is packing the fish tightly into their holding tanks on reefer vessels so that the available storage space is used up to its full capacity, most probably the hardest of all stevedoring tasks; Cleaning of the wells; some vessels have up to 22 wells of 70 - 90 ton capacity; Salt loading & stacking
Team work. Stevedores must communicate throughout their shift, whether it is to ensure a smooth chain of action or to warn each other of potential hazards.
The bigger picture: Everyone has a role to play, what value does the stevedore bring to the chain?
Cargo shipping lines and fishing vessel owners make their money when their boats are at sea, carrying cargo between ports and bringing fish in to later be exported. When ships are alongside a port, they are costing money to their owners.
Stevedores therefore play a key role in ensuring that ships get back on their journey, minimizing port time as much as possible. One could say that they are the 'middle man' between the land and sea. Stevedores' skills are sometimes called upon to 'pick up the slack' and get the delivery of the cargo to the next port back on schedule if the ship's journey has been delayed due to bad weather for instance.
As a matter of fact, the productivity level of ports is measured by the speed at which ships can 'turnaround', as the faster the turnaround the lower the cost for shipping lines. This in turn affects how attractive a port is to shipping lines - if a port's productivity is below par the shipping line may well revise its route to include more efficient ports.