Waterside worker


Also known as:

  • Stevedore
  • Wharf Labourer

What they do

Stevedores work in ports, moving cargo between ships and other forms of transport. These workers are responsible for loading and unloading cargo transported to and from ships by trucks, trains and other ships. They are also responsible for mooring and unmooring ships, ensuring that cargo is safely secured and may be required to complete paperwork for the transfer of cargo. The port at Fremantle is the biggest and busiest in Western Australia, however stevedores work at all 14 of the state's ports, from Esperance and Albany in the south, up to Broome and Derby in the north.

Working conditions

Stevedores often work outdoors in most weather conditions, although very strong wind may cause work to stop. They may also work in the cargo holds of ships and with frozen or dangerous goods. It is a potentially hazardous work environment, and strict safety procedures must be followed to minimise the dangers. They must also wear protective clothing such as hard hats, safety boots and reflective jackets. Ports generally operate 24 hours a day, every day of the year, meaning stevedores are required to work shifts, which may include nights, weekends and public holidays.

Tools and technologies

Stevedores use a range of heavy machinery to load and unload cargo, including forklifts, straddle carriers and gantry cranes. Netting, straps and ropes are used to securely lash cargo into place once it has been loaded to avoid damage while in transit. Radios may also be used to communicate with other workers.

How do I become one?

Education and training

You can work as a waterside worker without any formal qualifications and get training on the job.

You can also become a waterside worker by completing a traineeship. A stevedoring traineeship usually takes between 12 and 24 months to complete.

Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer, enabling you to complete training towards a nationally recognised qualification. You spend  time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider.

You can do an apprenticeship or traineeship if you are a school-leaver, re-entering the workforce or as an adult or mature-aged person wishing to change careers. You can even begin your apprenticeship or traineeship while you're still at school.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Required registration and licensing

You may also have to obtain a High Risk Work Licence from WorkSafe. In the course of your employment, additional licences and tickets to operate other forms of machinery may be required.