A dockworker (also called a longshoreman, stevedore, or docker) is a waterfront manual laborer who is involved in loading and unloading ships.[1]

Longshoremen on a New York dock load barrels of corn syrup onto a barge on the Hudson River. Photograph by Lewis Hine, c. 1912.
Dockers load bagged cargo – MS Rothenstein (North German Lloyd), Port Sudan, 1960

After the intermodal shipping container revolution of the 1960s, the required dockworkers declined by over 90%.[2]

Etymology edit

The word stevedore (/ˈstvɪˌdɔːr/) originated in Portugal or Spain, and entered the English language through its use by sailors.[3] It started as a phonetic spelling of estivador (Portuguese) or estibador (Spanish), meaning a man who loads ships and stows cargo, which was the original meaning of stevedore (though there is a secondary meaning of "a man who stuffs" in Spanish); compare Latin stīpāre meaning to stuff, as in to fill with stuffing. In Ancient and Modern Greek, the verb στοιβάζω (stevazo) means pile up.[4][5] In Great Britain and Ireland, people who load and unload ships are usually called dockers; in Australia, they are called stevedores, dockworkers or wharfies; and, in the United States and Canada, the term longshoreman, derived from man-along-the-shore, is used.[6] Before the extensive use of container ships and shore-based handling machinery in the United States, longshoremen referred exclusively to the dockworkers, while stevedores, in a separate trade union, worked on the ships, operating ship's cranes and moving cargo. In Canada, the term stevedore has also been used, for example, in the name of the Western Stevedoring Company, Ltd., based in Vancouver, British Columbia, in the 1950s.[7]

History edit

Dockworkers, also known as longshoremen and stevedores, have a long and storied history that dates back to ancient times. The role of dockworkers has evolved significantly over the centuries as maritime trade has grown and modernized. Here is an overview of the history of dockworkers.

  • Ancient times: Dockworkers have been essential to maritime trade since ancient times. The Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans all relied on dockworkers to load and unload cargo from ships at bustling port cities such as Carthage, Athens, and Ostia. These workers used manual labor and simple tools to handle goods, a practice that continued for centuries.[8][9][10][11]
  • Medieval period: In the Middle Ages, dockworkers played a crucial role in the trade networks of Europe. The Hanseatic League, a powerful trading confederation in Northern Europe, employed dockworkers to handle goods at major ports like Lübeck and Bruges. The work was physically demanding and often dangerous, as dockworkers had to lift heavy cargo without modern equipment.[12]
  • Industrial Revolution: The Industrial Revolution brought significant changes to the role of dockworkers. The introduction of steam-powered ships and railways revolutionized transportation, leading to increased trade volumes and the need for more efficient handling of cargo. Dockworkers organized into unions to protect their rights and improve working conditions, leading to the formation of organizations such as the International Longshoremen's Association in the United States.[13]
  • Containerization: The 20th century saw a major shift in the work of dockworkers with the introduction of containerization. Containers revolutionized the shipping industry by standardizing how goods were transported, leading to faster turnaround times and increased efficiency. Dockworkers adapted to this new technology by specializing in container handling and operating heavy machinery such as cranes.[14][15]
  • Modern era: Today, dockworkers play a vital role in global trade, working in ports worldwide to ensure the smooth flow of goods. They handle a wide range of cargo, from containers to bulk commodities, and are essential for the functioning of the maritime industry. Despite advancements in technology and automation, dockworkers remain an indispensable part of the supply chain.[16]

Loading and unloading ships edit

Loading and unloading ships requires knowledge of the operation of loading equipment, the proper techniques for lifting and stowing cargo, and the correct handling of hazardous materials. In addition, workers must be physically strong and able to follow orders attentively. Many longshoremen are needed to unload a ship successfully. A ship can only be at a port for a limited amount of time, so their work must be completed quickly.

In earlier days before the introduction of containerization, men who loaded and unloaded ships had to tie down cargoes with rope. A type of stopper knot is called the stevedore knot. Securely tying up parcels of goods is called stevedore lashing or stevedore knotting. While loading a general cargo vessel, they use dunnage, which are pieces of wood (or nowadays sometimes strong inflatable dunnage bags) set down to keep the cargo out of any water that might be lying in the hold or are placed as shims between cargo crates for load securing.

Today, the vast majority of non-bulk cargo is transported in intermodal containers.[17] The containers arrive at a port by truck, rail, or another ship and are stacked in the port's storage area. When the vessel that will be transporting them arrives, the containers it is offloading are unloaded by a crane. The containers either leave the port by truck or rail or are stored until they are placed on another ship. Once the ship is offloaded, the containers it leaves with are brought to the dock by truck. A crane lifts the containers from the trucks onto the ship. As the containers pile up on the ship, the workers connect them to the vessel and the other already-placed containers. The jobs involved include the crane operators, the workers who connect the containers to the ship and each other, the truck drivers who transport the containers from the dock and storage area, the workers who track the containers in the storage area as they are loaded and unloaded, as well as various supervisors. Those workers at the port who handle and move the containers are likely to be considered stevedores or dockworkers.

Before containerization, freight was often handled with a longshoreman’s hook, a tool which became emblematic of the profession (mainly on the west coast of the United States and Canada).[18]

Traditionally, stevedores had no fixed job but would arrive at the docks in the morning seeking employment for the day. London dockers called this practice standing on the stones,[19] while in the United States, it was referred to as shaping up or assembling for the shape-up.[20][21]

Dock workers have been a prominent part of the modern labor movement.[22]

By country edit

Australia edit

In Australia, the informal term "wharfie" (from wharf laborer) and the formal "waterside worker" include the variety of occupations covered in other countries by words like longshoreman or stevedore. The term "stevedore" is also sometimes used, as in the company name Patrick Stevedores. The term "docker" is also used, as in the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union, and is the mascot of the Fremantle Dockers in the Australian Football League.

The Maritime Union of Australia has coverage of these workers and fought a substantial industrial battle in the 1998 Australian waterfront dispute to prevent the contracting out of work to non-union workers.

In 1943, dockworkers in Melbourne and Sydney were deliberately exposed to mustard gas while unloading the ship Idomeneus. Many suffered death and permanent disability—all as a result of military secrecy.[23]

Japan edit

Several dockworkers' unions exist in Japan.[24] Agreements between two bodies, the National Federation of Dockworkers Unions of Japan and the Japan Harbor Transportation Association, govern the working conditions for dockworkers.[25] In 1982, Japanese dockworkers refused to work with fruit treated with ethylene dibromide (EDB).[26]

New Zealand edit

New Zealand usage is very similar to the Australian version; "waterside workers" are also known as "wharfies." The 1951 New Zealand waterfront dispute, involving New Zealand dockworkers, was the most significant and most bitter industrial dispute in the country's history.[This paragraph needs citation(s)]

United Kingdom edit

In the United Kingdom, the definition of a stevedore varies from port to port. In some ports, only the highly skilled master of a loading gang is referred to as a "stevedore". "Docker" is the usual general term used in the UK for a worker who loads or unloads ships and performs various other jobs required at a seaport.

In some ports, a stevedore is a person who decides where cargo is stowed on a ship for safe stowage and even balance of a ship. It is not a hands-on role.[citation needed]

It was once known to refer to those working on a ship—loading or unloading the cargo—as stevedores, while those working on the quayside were called dockers.

In the ports along the Thames, stevedores load, while dockers unload (according to Michael Budge, ex docker, Tilbury and Dave Penn, ex docker, Tilbury, 1978–2018).[full citation needed]

United States edit

Dockworkers loading a tank in Brooklyn, New York, Continental Piers, 1959

In present-day American waterfront usage, a longshoreman is usually a person or a company who manages the loading or unloading of a ship. In the early 19th century, the word was traditionally applied to black laborers or enslaved people who loaded and unloaded bales of cotton and other freight on and off riverboats. In Two Years Before the Mast (1840), the author Richard Henry Dana Jr. describes the steeving of a merchant sailing ship in 1834. This was the process of taking a mostly full hold and cramming in more material. In this case, the hold was filled with hides from the California hide trade up to four feet below the deckhead (equivalent of 'ceiling'). "Books" composed of 25–50 cattle skins folded into a bundle were prepared, and a small opening was created in the middle of one of the existing stacks. Then, the book was shoved in using a pair of thick, strong pieces of wood called steeves. The dockworkers had one end shaped like a wedge, placed into the middle of a book to shove into the stack. The other ends were pushed on through block and tackle and attached to the hull and overhead beams, which sailors hauled on.

Typically one ethnic group dominated the longshoreman market in a port, usually the Irish Catholics, as seen in the 1954 film about New York On the Waterfront.[27] In New Orleans there was a competition between the Irish and the blacks.[28]

In the Port of Baltimore, Polish Americans dominated. In the 1930s, about 80% of Baltimore's dockworkers were Polish or of Polish descent.[29] The port of Baltimore had an international reputation of fast cargo handling credited to the well-organized gang system that was nearly free of corruption, wildcat strikes, and repeated work stoppages of its other East coast counterparts. The New York Anti-Crime Commission and the Waterfront Commission looked upon the Baltimore system as ideal for all ports. The gang system's hiring of dockworkers in Baltimore dates back to 1913 when the ILA was first formed. The Polish dockworkers began setting up the system by selecting the most skilled men to lead them. This newly formed gang would usually work for the same company, which would give priority to the gang. When there was no work within the particular company, the gang would work elsewhere or even divide to aid other groups, speeding up the work and making it more efficient.[30] In an environment as dangerous as a busy waterfront, Baltimore's gangs always operated together as a unit because the experience let them know what each member would be doing at any given time, making a waterfront much safer.[31] At the beginning of the Second World War, Polish predominance in the Port of Baltimore significantly diminished, as many Poles were drafted.

It is common to use the terms "stevedore" and "longshoreman" interchangeably.[30] The U.S. Congress has done so in the Ship Mortgage Act, 46 app. U.S.C. section 31301(5)(C), which designates both "crew wages" and "stevedore wages" as preferred maritime liens. The statute intended to give the wages of the seamen and dockworkers the same level of protection. Sometimes the word "stevedore" is used to mean "the man who loads and unloads a ship" as the British "docker".

Today,[when?] a stevedore typically owns the equipment used in the loading or discharge operation and hires dockworkers who load and unload cargo under the direction of a stevedore superintendent. This type of work along the East Coast waterfront was characteristic of ports like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.

Today, a commercial stevedoring company also may contract with a terminal owner to manage all terminal operations. Many large container ship operators have established in-house stevedoring operations to handle cargo at terminals and to provide stevedoring services to other container carriers.

One union within the AFL–CIO represents dockworkers: the International Longshoremen's Association, which represents dockworkers on the East Coast, on the Great Lakes and connected waterways and along the Gulf of Mexico. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dockworkers along the West Coast, Hawaii, and Alaska, was formerly affiliated with the AFL–CIO but disaffiliated in 2013.

Docker lashing down cargo aboard a container ship

Notable dockworkers edit

Former stevedores and dockworkers include:

In popular culture edit

  • In 1949, reporter Malcolm Johnson was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for a 24-part investigative series titled Crime on the Waterfront, published in the New York Sun.
  • The material from Malcolm Johnson's investigative series was fictionalized and used as a basis for the influential film On the Waterfront (1954), starring Marlon Brando as a longshoreman, and the working conditions on the docks figure significantly in the film's plot. On the Waterfront was a critical and commercial success that received twelve Academy Award nominations and won eight, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Brando, Best Supporting Actress for Eva Marie Saint, and Best Director for Elia Kazan. The American Film Institute ranked it the 8th-greatest American movie of all time in 1997 and 19th in 2007.[33]
  • Playwright Arthur Miller was involved in the early stages of the development of On the Waterfront; his play A View from the Bridge (1955) also deals with the troubled life of a longshoreman.[34]
  • In season 2 of the HBO series The Wire, which first aired in 2003, the Stevedore Union and its members working in Baltimore, particularly Frank Sobotka, figure prominently in the second season's story.[35][36]
  • The American film Kill the Irishman (2011) features Ray Stevenson as Danny Greene, head of the Longshoreman's Union.[37]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Dockworker". Dictionary.com. Retrieved August 27, 2023.
  2. ^ Khan, Khalil U. (15 September 2014). "Stevedoring & The Role of Stevedores in Shipping". The International Institute of Marine Surveying (IIMS). Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  3. ^ David Maclachlan (1875). A Treatise on the Law of Merchant Shipping. W. Maxwell & Son. pp. 387–.
  4. ^ "Modern Greek Verbs – στοιβάζω, στοίβαξα, στοιβάχτηκα, στοιβαγμένος – I pile up". moderngreekverbs.com.
  5. ^ "Stevedores – definition of stevedores by The Free Dictionary". TheFreeDictionary.com.
  6. ^ "America on the Move collection". Archived from the original on June 12, 2007.
  7. ^ Paul Hellyer Papers, Library and Archives Canada, MG32 B33, Vol. 251.
  8. ^ Hazzard, Shirley (2008). The Ancient Shore: Dispatches from Naples.
  9. ^ Horejs, Barbara (2003). Ports of Trade: Al Mina and Geometric Greek Pottery in the Levant.
  10. ^ Casson, Lionel (1959). The Ancient Mariners: Seafarers and Sea Fighters of the Mediterranean in Ancient Times.
  11. ^ Casson, Lionel (1994). Seafaring in Ancient Times.
  12. ^ Meier, Dirk (October 15, 2009). Seafarers, Merchants, and Pirates in the Middle Ages.
  13. ^ "The position of dockers and sailors in 1897 and the International Federation of Ship, Dock and River Workers". www.marxists.org. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  14. ^ "Labor on the Waterfront". South Street Seaport Museum. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  15. ^ "The ILWU Story". ILWU. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  16. ^ Container Terminals and Cargo Systems: Design, Operations Management, and Logistics Control Issues. By Kap Hwan Kim (Editor), Hans-Otto Günther (Editor). Springer. 2007.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  17. ^ Marc Levinson (2006). The Box, How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger. Princeton Univ. Press. ISBN 0-691-12324-1.
  18. ^ "Uniform Containerization of Freight: Early Steps in the Evolution of an Idea". Business History Review. 43 (1): 84–87. 1969. doi:10.2307/3111989. JSTOR 3111989. S2CID 246479077.
  19. ^ Standing on the Stones BFI Film and TV Database, London Dockers (1964)
  20. ^ "shape-up". Dictionary.com. Random House Unabridged Dictionary. Retrieved 2008-05-15.
  21. ^ Blum, Howard (March 13, 1978). "The 'Shape-Up' on Piers Gives Way to 'Show- Up'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-10-13.
  22. ^ "British History in depth: Banners of the British Labour Movement". BBC.
  23. ^ Plunkett, Geoff (2014). Death by Mustard. Big Sky. ISBN 978-1-922132-91-8.
  24. ^ Board, United States National Labor Relations (1993). Decisions and Orders of the National Labor Relations Board. National Labor Relations Board.
  25. ^ Kawaguchi, Miki (November 2014). "Negotiations and Agreements of Labor Unions and Employers in the Industrial Sector in Japan" (PDF). 日本労働研究雑誌 (Japan Labour Research Journal).
  26. ^ Walsh, John (1982-03-26). "EDB Causes a Regulatory Ripple Effect". Science. 215 (4540): 1593. doi:10.1126/science.215.4540.1593. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 17788469.
  27. ^ Fisher, James T. (2010). On the Irish Waterfront: The Crusader, the Movie, and the Soul of the Port of New York.
  28. ^ Arnesen, Eric (1994). Waterfront Workers of New Orleans: Race, Class, and Politics, 1863–1923.
  29. ^ Hollowak, Thomas L. (1996). A History of Polish Longshoremen and Their Role in the Establishment of a Union at the Port of Baltimore. Baltimore: History Press.
  30. ^ a b Delich, Helen. "Noted for Fast, Efficient Work Baltimore System of Operating is Termed Ideal for All Ports." Baltimore Sun, 1955.
  31. ^ Delich, Helen. "Ganging Up on the Water Front." Baltimore Sun, 1954.
  32. ^ MacKay, Peter (August 25, 2012). "Peter MacKay learned to appreciate Arctic life working as a stevedore". National Post. Retrieved March 13, 2023.
  33. ^ Rapf, Joanna E. (2003). On the Waterfront. Cambridge University Press.
  34. ^ Epstein, Arthur D. (1965). "A Look at A View from the Bridge". Texas Studies in Literature and Language. 7 (1): 109–122.
  35. ^ Warren, Kenneth W. (2011). "Sociology and The Wire". Critical Inquiry. 38 (1): 200–207. doi:10.1086/661649. S2CID 161316328.
  36. ^ Herbert, Daniel (2012). "'It Is What It Is': The Wire and the Politics of Anti-Allegorical Television Drama". Quarterly Review of Film and Video. 29 (3): 191–202. doi:10.1080/10509200903120047. S2CID 155014315.
  37. ^ Porrello, Rick (2011). Kill the Irishman. Simon and Schuster.

Further reading edit

External links edit