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Cordell Jefferson

A conversation with ...
A Longshoreman, Jeff Jefferson

Explore Port Careers

All about...Longshoremen

What a longshoreman does . . .

Longshoremen are the people (both men and women) who handle cargo at the Port.  Traditionally, longshoremen load and unload ships. (In Baltimore, these cargo handlers are erroneously referred to as stevedores instead of longshoremen.) Stevedores are the management, the companies who employ longshoreman. Longshoremen also complete other important Port duties that are part of that process.  Longshoremen who are linehandlers tie a ship to the dock when it comes into port. They inspect and sometimes repair containers that are loaded with cargo.  And if the cargo is the kind that can be driven onto a ship, such as a car or farm machinery, longshoremen handle that task as well.  

In past centuries, longshoremen used to load and unload ships by hand.  However, today, they use different mechanical technologies to accomplish this task.  Much of the cargo entering America is packed in containers.  When a ship arrives in port, longshoremen man large cranes and other equipment to lift the containers off the ships and place them on the dock, so they can be loaded onto rail cars or trucks. What used to take up to two weeks to unload can now be done in a few hours.  A ship with 5,000 containers, for example, now can now be unloaded in 15 hours.

Career Tidbits

  • This job does not require a bachelor’s degree, but some jobs do require special certifications in certain job skills.
  • People think that the term longshoreman originated in the early days of this job when no one knew when a ship was going to come in to a port.  When it did, ship owners would hire men to unload the ship by walking along the coastline or pier, calling out “Men along the shore!”
  • Until the age of containerization, a longshoreman’s hook was used to snag cargo and remove it from a ship.  Today the hook remains a symbol of longshoremen.

A longshoreman typically has:

These skills and abilities:
Physical strength and dexterity, mechanical ability and communication skills

This knowledge:

  • How math, especially geometry, weight, and mass, is used in the job
  • How trucks and other large equipment operate
  • How to identify damages to shipping containers and repair them
  • How goods are processed through a port

This training:
Longshoremen in Baltimore are trained to complete their jobs by the union (International Longshoreman’s Association) that operates at the port.  They receive training ranging from using heavy machinery and equipment, such as forklifts, to container and chassis repair.

This education:
This position does not require a high school diploma or a college degree.

Longshoremen make the Port of Baltimore one of the most efficient on the east coast.

Find out about other careers at the Port.