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Waterside worker

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Summary of occupation

Stevedores work in ports, moving cargo between ships and other forms of transport. These workers are responsible for loading and unloading cargo transported to and from ships by trucks, trains and other ships. They are also responsible for mooring and unmooring ships, ensuring that cargo is safely secured and may be required to complete paperwork for the transfer of cargo. The port at Fremantle is the biggest and busiest in Western Australia, however stevedores work at all 14 of the state's ports, from Esperance and Albany in the south, up to Broome and Derby in the north.

ANZSCO description: Transfers cargo between ships and other forms  of transport or storage facilities.
Alternative names: Dock Worker, Docker, Longshoreman, Stevedore, Wharf Labourer, Wharf Labourer, Wharfie
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A stevedore needs:

  • to be physically fit and able to lift heavy loads
  • the ablity to work as part of a team
  • practical and manual skills
  • to be safety conscious
  • good communication skills
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Working conditions

Stevedores often work outdoors in most weather conditions, although very strong wind may cause work to stop. They may also work in the cargo holds of ships and with frozen or dangerous goods. It is a potentially hazardous work environment, and strict safety procedures must be followed to minimise the dangers. They must also wear protective clothing such as hard hats, safety boots and reflective jackets. Ports generally operate 24 hours a day, every day of the year, meaning stevedores are required to work shifts, which may include nights, weekends and public holidays.

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Salary details

On average, waterside workers, classified under freight and furniture handlers, can expect to earn between $1 000 and $1 249 per week, ($52 000 and $64 999 per year), depending on their level of experience, and the organisation they work for. As a waterside worker develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Stevedores use a range of heavy machinery to load and unload cargo, including forklifts, straddle carriers and gantry cranes. Netting, straps and ropes are used to securely lash cargo into place once it has been loaded to avoid damage while in transit. Radios may also be used to communicate with other workers.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

You can work as a waterside worker without any formal qualifications and get training on the job.

You can also become a waterside worker by completing a traineeship. A stevedoring traineeship usually takes between 12 and 24 months to complete.

​You may also have to obtain a High Risk Work Licence from WorkSafe. In the course of your employment, additional licences and tickets to operate other forms of machinery may be required.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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