Diary of a Stevedora Part 2


…The continuing story of my adventures as a Stevedora….Part 2.

Day 2
Day two was a fizzer as, although we had switched to Kingston, the sea was just as choppy on that side of the island. No unloading today.

Day 3

On day three we were back at Kingston, with only ‘moderate’ swells. It was a beautiful morning, with some heavy showers in the afternoon, that certainly put a damper on things; like my jacket that I had left in an exposed place on deck. Today we unloaded the last of chilled/frozen goods before heading down the hatch to the first of the lower decks.

A truck on the top deck, which required double loading (two lighters tied together), was lifted off on the other side of the ship by the crew, using one of the big cranes. It was beautiful to watch and went absolutely perfect. And yes, that was one of my videos of the day.


Now hang on a minute, I forgot to tell you the exciting part of my day. I climbed the ladder onto the ship today! I am thinking practise makes perfect, and I have a long way to go. However, as I had been ‘placed’ on the deck via a net the other day, I was a bit disorientated and ended up doing a tour of the ‘side deck’, pausing to take photos, so it looked like I meant to go that way. I learnt today that anything painted yellow indicates a ladder, and when you are looking for yellow paint, its surprising how many you can find.


There is no designated lunch time for the Stevedores, there is always someone working while anyone is eating…

Once the deck was completely unloaded, we moved to the bow of the ship while the crew moved a container off the hatches. Watching it being moved out of the way by the huge ship’s crane was a fraidy experience as it swung all about, even though the seas were being relatively kind to us.

As the hatch cover rolled along and compacted into a recess at the bow of the boat was awesome to watch, and extremely noisy! Technology is amazing, isn’t it? I was expecting the stevedores to have to manhandle each hatch, so this was a pleasant surprise….and explained why the container had to be moved first.

Today I helped for a while laying out nets for freight but decided there was a fine line between helping and hindrance and restricted my ‘helping’ to when it was needed. Instead I took about 200 photos and a couple of videos. I am in awe of Ritchie and Todd, the forklift drivers, who manoeuvre effortlessly in such small confines. The stevedores work as a team without having to give instructions to each other.

The hatch was about one third open with a third each side of the opening. There were some vehicles and lots of pallets of freight. I decided to play it safe and stay put until there was enough space for me to avoid being in the way.

The crane operator can’t see in the hatch most of the time, so hand signals and loud voices (which I don’t have) are helpful during this process.

Some of the extremely long pallets were brought up by ‘straps’. I asked about the difference in the strap colours and learned that they could carry between three to five Tonnes. I know you won’t be as excited about this as me, but apparently, the amount of stripes running down them indicates the weight capacity. It also has it written on the other side, but lets face it, being able to count stripes and sound like you know what you’re talking about is an added bonus!

Some pallets had moved or been damaged in transit, with a few having to be repacked by hand. Watching the guys work out how best to ‘right’ some of the pallets with minimal damage was interesting. With the use of strops attached to the pallet and ‘ceiling’ of the hatch, freight was encouraged to move to a more accessible position for the forklift, or to straighten up. It was surprising to see that some of the palletised cargo only had minimal plastic wrapping around them, which meant that when the pallets had shifted due, I assume, to rough seas, the corner of another pallet had punctured some of the goods. The guys did what they could to stop the flow and avoid any more spillage before lifting it out to the lighters.

With heavy rain, the floor became quite slippery and it didn’t seem to matter how much grip you thought you had on your work boots, you still went for a quick slide. I prefer to call it my ballet practise.

Every time someone stood or sat next to me, I asked them about their history as a stevedore. Their experience ranges from this is their first ship to 43 years’ experience. Some had always wanted to work on the ship from when they were lads, some followed in their father’s footsteps and others just enjoyed the challenge.

When it was time to leave and go to the lighter, we ‘slid’ through a half hatch, found a ledge in the half light and then climbed a metal stair through a narrow space to get to the side deck.  This was a bit of a challenge, especially as its quite dark, and you’re doing it by braille until you get to the top. I was quite proud of myself for climbing down the ladder into the lighter today, almost by myself. I can’t take full credit as I was guided on the way down. As much as I have always considered myself able to do whatever the blokes can, I have been grateful for the assistance and help I have received today.


Now I haven’t mentioned ‘sea legs’ at all. I don’t get seasick, thankfully. To me the swell is similar to rocking to your favourite beats. My land legs seem to be okay, however, I have noticed that as I type this up at the end of each day, my laptop has begun to dip and sway! 


Sometimes, creative and ingenious tactics are called for to straighten fallen pallets with minimum damage to the freight


Anthony, the Tally Clerk checks off cargo as it is unloaded. 


Pallets can slip and slide during transit


See the yellow marks on the deck? They indicate a ladder to the side

crane and lift20102020

This is the view from the middle hatch. As you can see Danny can’t see, so communication is extremely important between decks.