Diary of a Stevedora Part 4

lowering in

Day 5
I almost ‘missed the boat’ this morning because I was so busy taking photos of the stevedores being lowered into the sea. It was a bit swelly, so I was more than keen to be lowered into the bottom hatch today. Before we headed out to sea I told Coon that I was torn between wanting to help and getting in the way and he encouraged me to join in. Woo hoo! So today I did, and really felt like a part of the team.


Eventually I noticed a strap had been attached to the wall to make it easier to climb between the middle and lower decks. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it, especially during my efforts to get upstairs yesterday, so I asked if it had been there the whole time. Someone told me it went up after I had climbed up, so I can only assume I looked as awkward as I felt in my mountain climbing expedition yesterday! I must admit I feel humbled with the way everyone has looked out for this very green greenhorn, although I am told that they do this for everyone who has just started…if you heard a pop today, it was the sound of my ego deflating yet again.



When the ship is loaded, the thick red straps are left around the cargo. However, as the Stevedores use a hiab crane, the straps are sometimes too long for lifting and need to be wound around the load several times for safe lifting


The last of the freight in the middle part of the hatch was lifted out by mid-morning. I am truly in awe of how effortlessly the Stevedores work out what is the best way to send it to shore. For example, there were a lot of large bags of cement and some long steel bundles. In order to ensure the load remained balanced, two bags of the cement were placed in the lighter first, with the metal resting on top. I discovered that because of the weight of these cement bags, only four could go in a lighter at a time. One pack of steel girders was removed from a lighter at one stage, and I was told that the safety of the lighterage workers was paramount. If they don’t feel the load is safe, then it has to be changed or adjusted, as they have a gut instinct for this. I admire the mutual respect everyone has for the skills and knowledge of each group working the ship.



Cement is only ‘single lifted’ due to it’s weight. Heavier loads are placed at a 45 degree angle for more stability.


The further under the deck we went, the more important it was for communication between us, Cody, directing the crane and Danny to avoid any mishaps. Todd and Ryan were on the middle deck, sorting straps and nets, dangling the ‘eyes’, so the nets could be pulled down easily by those of us below. The speed at which the rest of the group worked, without losing their sense of humour and remaining safe was awe-inspiring. 


Drill and Ritchie alternated driving the forklift. As I said earlier, a lot of cargo gets displaced or becomes damaged while in transit, and the skill required to adjust it, so there is no or little loss, is amazing. I think you need to see it to understand how this is achieved, words just are not enough. The care of the freight is vital, and at times, one of the stevedores’ would patch something with plastic in an attempt to save further leakage.


There was much joking and teasing as the lower deck was being cleared. Whoever said men can’t multi-task hasn’t watched these guys work.



There isn’t much room for error when you are below deck


The communication between decks is amazing

split_level_this one

The hiab crane can lift 8200kg when only extended 2.5m. At full extension of 14.9m, the crane can only lift 1220kg.

I realised today that I haven’t got a single photo of me being on the ship, so I asked Drill to take one, while I was taking a break. I don’t like having my photo taken, so I refused to look at the camera. He took the shot just as Lew called me a poser, which made me turn of course! (I bet you can’t guess what I was about to say as the pic was taken…☺)


As we went further under the deck and had more space, the nets were laid out in the open space instead of the middle deck. Today I learnt that if a load is really heavy e.g. cement, the net is placed in a 45° angle as that gives it more stability and strength, whereas lighter freight is placed in the middle, well actually four squares in…okay, now I am just showing off some of my new understanding of the process.


At one stage Cody asked us how many containers were left. He received four different answers, much to my amusement. I said to Coon, ‘perhaps you should have asked a bookkeeper to count.’ He asked me how many I had counted, and I replied ‘none, because I’m not bookkeeping today…’


stuck below deck

When it rains, the top deck is closed until it has passed

The ship was rocking a fair bit all day and apparently the swells were interesting from topside. We didn’t notice it much, until we were preparing to leave the ship. Once we were on the lighter, I looked up to see a mini tsunami heading for us! The crew on the ship were videoing the big waves, and most likely the expression on our faces as the wave headed for us. Cody assured us it had been like this for most of the day. It was an interesting ride into the pier; I now have an inkling what surfing must be like!


As I stepped onto shore, and out of this awesome adventure, I was a bit happy with what I have accomplished this week, and a little disappointed it was all over. It has been a life-changing experience! I have always had respect for the Stevedores, but after this ship I now have a clearer understanding of what they do and how it is accomplished, and my respect has increased tenfold. Thanks for such a memorable week and thanks for all you do!