Stevedore! Who are you?

The word stevedore, in general, denotes the marine or waterfront workers engaged in cargo-handling operation for ships. The term ‘stevedore’ did originate in old sea-faring Europe. Stevedoring is a very old, but a specialized marine profession. The stevedores usually perform a range of tasks in the docks, including loading and unloading of cargo, stacking or stowing them on-board the ship or on-shore, operating cranes, derricks and various cargo-handling equipment. With the advent of containerization, stuffing and un-stuffing of containers and the associated logistical activities are also performed by the stevedores.

Stevedore! What are your roles?

The scope and responsibility of a stevedore, or the stevedoring firm vary from country to country, and even from port to port. Depending on the contractual obligations, as agreed with the principal (who may be the shipping company, steamer agent or the port authority), a stevedore may be responsible for on-shore operations, ship-board operations or the complete terminal handling operations and associated logistics. A stevedore may perform one or multiple roles depending on the contractual binding, statutory and regulatory framework, ongoing practices and the administrative jurisdiction of the local agencies like port, dock labor boards and union bodies.

Stevedore! Explain your functions

In the context of stevedoring, it is necessary to recognize the operational complexities that surround cargo operations. The objectives, parameters and the variables pertaining on-shore cargo operations are distinctly different from ship-board work. In other words, the science and methodologies of on-board cargo-loading and stowing are different from cargo receiving, stacking and delivery operations we normally see on shore at the transit-sheds or the quay-head. In on-board loading operation, particularly for break-bulk cargo, the challenge primarily relates to various factors like – (i) the cargo-stowage techniques to efficiently utilize the cubical space of the hatch ( because to a shipping company every cubic inch means money), (ii) the first-in-last-out stacking rule depending on the sequence of the ports of call,(iii) facilitating ease of cargo accessibility at the time of discharge (iv) cargo-compatibility to prevent any contamination (v)the principles of cargo-unitization (like pallets, pre-slung units) for quick- handling (vi) even distribution of cargo across various hold/hatches not only to facilitate simultaneous multiple hatch-operations , but also to obviate hogging/sagging of the vessel. For on-board operations, a stevedoring unit needs multiple specialized hands like ships clerk, hatch foreman, deck foreman, signaler, crane drivers and hatch-workers. On the contrary, the on-shore operations - which pertain to handling/movement of cargo when it is discharged on quay head- are typically similar to what we know as warehouse management operations. It has its familiar complexities like receiving, stacking, manifesting, delivery and associated usage of mobile cargo handlers like forklifts, yard cranes etc.

The stevedores or a stevedoring companies have further become diversified in their operation with the advent and progress of containerization. The usual container operations call for stevedoring functions like cargo-stuffing, de-stuffing, container freight station management, container yard stacking and tracking, maintaining and operating a fleet of container gantries, trucking operations. With diversification and growing scope of operations, many large stevedoring firms have also laterally integrated their functions with inter-modal transport, comprehensive shipping and logistical services and packaging various service add-ons like door-to-door delivery.

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