Kaimahi Taunga Waka
This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Stevedores operate a variety of heavy machinery to load, unload, tally and stow the cargo of a ship.
Inexperienced stevedores usually earn
$45K-$55K per year
Stevedores in a supervisory role can earn
$60K-$90K per year
Source: Tranzqual ITO, Frequently Asked Questions, 2011
Pay for stevedores varies depending on the employer.
- Stevedores starting out usually earn between $45,000 and $55,000 a year.
- With two to three years' experience, they can earn up to $60,000.
- Those in supervisory roles can earn up to $90,000.
Source: Tranzqual ITO, Frequently Asked Questions, 2011 (now part of MITO).
What you will do
Stevedores may do some or all of the following:
- load and unload boats
- operate heavy vehicles and machinery, such as straddle carriers, fork-lifts and ships' cranes, to load and unload cargo from trucks, ships and rail transport services
- position goods in the holds of ships
- secure cargo on ships using braces to hold it in place
- carry out safety checks on equipment
- secure and release mooring lines of ships
- clean out ships' tanks and holds.
Skills and knowledge
Stevedores need to have:
- knowledge of health and safety procedures
- skill operating heavy machinery such as straddle carriers, fork-lifts and ships' cranes
- knowledge of how to handle different types of cargo, particularly containers of dangerous substances
- knowledge of basic customs and shipping company documents
- the ability to interpret ship loading plans.
- often do shift work, so may work early mornings, weekends and nights
- spend most of their time working outdoors at ports, and in container terminals and the cargo holds of ships
- work in most weather conditions and around heavy machinery, which can be dangerous at times
- may have to travel to other ports for work.
What's the job really like?
Neville Emery - Stevedore
"I like the challenges of life on the waterfront," says Neville Emery. "That's what I've always been about, and here I get a good variety of work so there are lots of challenges."
This diversity has kept Neville on the job for 15 years. "It's never been a boring job – I do crane work, fork-lift driving, digger driving – I've been around heavy gear so long every fork-lift is the same," he jokes.
Casual work leads to full-time employment
For those interested in becoming a stevedore, Neville's advice is to start out as a casual. The best way to find work is ringing a stevedore company and asking for work.
"That's the only way to do it because the jobs are never advertised, but they're always looking for labour. Most of the work here for young people is labouring work for starters. After a while, if you're keen to advance, they'll put you through a training course.
"Training has improved since I started. People are now shown what to do, whereas I was thrown in the deep end and told to go and do a job."
There are no specific entry requirements to become a stevedore as you gain skills on the job. However, employers usually prefer you to have a driver's licence because most jobs on wharves involve driving vehicles. A Class 2 (heavy vehicle) driver's licence with an F endorsement (allowing the vehicle to be driven on public roads) is the minimum needed to drive heavy vehicles such as straddle carriers and large fork-lifts.
Some employers may require you to pass a medical test.
There are no specific secondary education requirements for becoming a stevedore, but a minimum of NCEA Level 1 maths and English is recommended.
Stevedores need to be:
- adaptable and practical
- safety conscious
- able to follow instructions
- good communicators.
Experience with heavy machinery and vehicles – such as fork-lifts, truck and trailer units and track and roller vehicles – is useful.
Knowledge of port and freight industries and work experience at heavy plant facilities is also useful.
Stevedores need to be reasonably fit and healthy. They should have good upper body strength, hearing, eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) and balance. They should also be comfortable working at heights. They should not have allergies or asthma because conditions can be dusty when dealing with cargo such as fertiliser.
Find out more about training
- NZ Motor Industry Training Organisation (MITO)
- 0800 88 21 21 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.mito.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Part-time work a foot in the door
Most stevedoring positions that arise are part time, because turnover among staff in full-time positions is very low. Part-time work often arises when the ports are busier – during fishing seasons, and when lots of imports arrive from overseas.
Full-time job opportunities for stevedores have declined because of:
- erratic shipping schedules, meaning more casual labour is used
- automation and the introduction of mechanical loading and unloading equipment.
You may be able to secure a full-time position by working first as a casual employee to gain the required skills, and showing enthusiasm and reliability.
Stevedores work for port companies or private stevedoring companies
- All but one of the 14 port companies in New Zealand employ stevedores themselves. (Port of Tauranga contracts out all of its stevedoring work to private companies.)
- New Zealand has more than 10 private stevedoring companies.
Most ports use a combination of their own staff and stevedores supplied on contract by private companies.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012
- Moore, J, chief executive officer, Northport Ltd, Careers New Zealand interview, January 2011.
- Tranzqual ITO, 'Stevedoring and Ports Industry' (media release), March 2009.
Progression and specialisations
Stevedores may progress by moving from part-time contract work to full-time employment. They may specialise in operating certain types of heavy vehicles such as straddle carriers, cranes and fork-lifts.
Last updated 24 January 2017