Stevedores are employed at all U.S. ports. The Department of Labor reports that 11,620 people worked as tank car, truck, and ship loaders in May 2019. The bulk of jobs for stevedores are concentrated on the coasts, and larger companies employ greater numbers of longshore workers. Usually, applicants must be union members to secure a position with one of the larger companies.
To find a job as a stevedore, contact the local union offices or shipping companies to find out whether workers are being hired. Those who would like eventually to work in an administrative position, such as pier superintendent, should consider entering one of the maritime academies (schools that train officers and crew for merchant vessels). Another possibility for people interested in administrative work is to enter a training program conducted by a port authority, which is an organization at a port that controls harbor activities.
Many stevedoring jobs are open only to union workers. In some ports, jobs are allocated based on seniority, so newcomers may be left with the least desirable jobs.
Dockworkers may start out doing basic labor, such as loading trucks or following instructions to load cargo in holds. Later, if they prove to be responsible and reliable, they may learn how to operate equipment such as winches or forklifts. In general, this kind of advancement depends on the need for workers to do particular tasks, as well as on the individual's abilities. Those who demonstrate strong abilities, leadership, and judgment may have an opportunity to become gang bosses and supervise a crew of other workers. Advancement into administrative positions may require additional formal education.
Tips for Entry
Read The Dispatcher (http://www.ilwu.org/the-dispatcher-newspaper/current-issue) to learn more about union-related issues.
Talk to stevedores about their careers. Ask them for advice on breaking into the field.
Land a part-time job at a water transportation firm or related employer to hone your skills and make industry contacts.