Diary of a Stevedora


Part 3


Day 4


We are back at Kingston for day four, and the sea was pretty pleased to see us. It was giving us really big waves! Norfolk Islander’s sense of humour is unique, and we all had a chuckle when a couple of the guys went to the bow of the lighter and recreated the famous Titanic scene as we surged up and down.


With all those big waves, today I was grateful to be netted to the lower depths of the ship. I even managed not to get myself caught up in the nets like the other day. Although in honesty, I had sat down on the first day and learnt that if you go down standing up, its way easier to step off, than to roll off the pile of nets after you hit the floor!


I spent most of the morning on the mid level taking photos and notes. I could see there wasn’t much room to move down there and it was safer if I stayed out of the way. The lower middle section was full of the really heavy cargo, like wood, metal and fibrolite. Although they are pre-strapped from the freight loading, sometimes it isn’t viable to use these straps, as they were interminably long. The ship has two large cranes for loading and shifting containers, but a smaller hi-ab crane is used by the stevedores, with a maximum reach of 10 feet, which at that stretch only gives them 2 Tonne lifting capacity. The long straps were either wound more times for stability and strength, or the heavy duty straps used yesterday were employed. Danny definitely can’t see this far into the ship, so Cody was on the deck, using hand signals to indicate direction to him, while someone in the hold used hand signals to direct the lifting. Cody also pointed out which bits of freight suited the space left in the lighter.



Todd, on the middle level, throws down the nets and straps


A load of timber coming up from the hold

Some of those loads were so bulky and heavy, it was awe inspiring the way the Stevedores working on the best way to lift it safely and efficiently. I have to say there is a real art to it. Tag lines were attached to all these loads as there was a definite need to guide them safely out of the hold and onto the lighters. Although some loads of metal and timber have metal strapping around them, apparently when they are moved, there is a danger they could just slip out, so the straps were wrapped around the metal and not through the strapping, as I would have imagined.


I moved out onto the top deck to take photos, sliding though the half hatch and coming up the ladder. I was hoping to get some shots of the bigger picture as freight came up. I even managed to find the ladder easily with my newfound ‘yellow’ knowledge. Unfortunately, when I decided it was time to go back down, and I spied the yellow strip, threw my legs over to discover there was no ladder there. I ended up having to squidge about four feet to it. Later I realised the yellow system only works if the deck hasn’t been moved! Duh.


Coming down and through the half hatch was a bigger challenge than I expected, and its just lucky I can laugh at myself!


in the hatch 11
in the hatch12


I desperately wanted to go down to the lower section once there was a bit more space. Leaning out to take downward photos just wasn’t working for me. I watched the guys going up and down plenty of times, but I have learnt in my short time as a stevedore that if they make it look easy, the chances are it definitely isn’t! Barefoot I will climb almost anything, but I swear my feet grow 15cm when I wear shoes or boots. After sidling up to the edge for an hour, I decided to throw caution to the wind and attempt it. All I will say is it was an interesting experience, and when I finally got down, I felt as if I had done a triple somersault with a flying flip. I stood there briefly waiting for resounding cheers or, at the very least, applause….nothing; no one even noticed…sigh.


However, climbing back up afterwards was a mission in itself with my two left feet which felt as big as a circus clowns shoes. There were a few places you could get a toehold, but I seemed to be too clumsy to use them. I got there eventually, thankful that everyone was probably to busy to notice how umma oola (clumsy) I was.


Every stevedore on every deck has a job to do
in the hatch2

Sometimes the crane operator needs a bit of help from the forklift

Today I even managed to fight off a few of the guys so that I could remove the empty nets from the hook, I am definitely starting to feel like a stevedora! Actually, I didn’t have to really fight them too hard, I would signal to Danny on the crane that it was ‘mine’, and if that didn’t work I simply gave them the Nobbs’ death stare and they would then back off!

Where the middle hatch floor is painted metal, the lower one is wooden, and, also slippery when it rains. The forklift was lowered from the mid-section by the crew and the large ships crane. Unfortunately, my position wasn’t the best for taking photos.

Kyran and Keanu, at the top would grab the tag lines and guide it to the lighter guys, who would then help with the optimal placement. Todd stayed on the mid floor, laying out the nets or placing the various straps so they were ready for use.

I did manage to help with a few freight nets, when some of the palletised cargo was being hoisted out of the hold, but most of the time I tried to stay out of the way and used it as an opportunity to take more photos – only 139 today!

The sea became too rough, so work was called off in the early afternoon. I decided to go through the half hatch to the deck and thought it was a great idea to do this wearing my backpack. Bad idea! Those thin stairwells are definitely not Quasimodo friendly….and that’s all I have to say about that!

I managed to go down the stairs onto the lighter again today, and once again I was grateful for the help. I was even more thankful to be lifted out of the lighter onto the pier. I was looking at those huge waves crashing and pondering my chances before Coon suggested it.

It is looking like there will only be one more day of unloading and I can’t believe how much I have enjoyed being a part of it and how much I have learnt. I am soooo lucky!


The forklift being lowered to the lower deck once there was enough space