A longshoreman is a person who handles cargos at a dock.

His main function includes handling of cargos or materials shipped from or shipped to different locationsThe job doesn’t require any kind of formal educationHowever, the process of becoming a skilled longshoreman requires consistent efforts.

  1. Obtain Permits to Access the Dock Area

Every country has its own set of regulations when it comes to port facilities. In order to work as a longshoreman, you need to obtain required permits for accessing the dock premises as a worker or laborer.

  • To secure the job of a longshoreman in the United States, you have to get a TWIC card. TWIC or Transportation Worker Identification Credential allows a person to access the secured port premises and dock areas.
  • Candidates have to contact the agency of Transportation Security Administration for securing the TWIC card.
  • For securing the card, the candidate must submit identity proofs, pay the requisite fee, and fill in an application form.
  1. Get Associated with a Workers’ Union

Labor unions administer all the material handling jobs carried out at the dock areas. In order to become a longshoreman, you need to determine the workers’ union that controls the longshoremen activities at your selected port and contact the authorities.

  • For working at ports on the West Coast of the United States, you need to get in touch with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Likewise, for dock areas that belong to the East Coast, you need to associate with International Longshoremen’s Association.
  • For gaining the membership, you have to follow all the guidelines and instructions issued by the labor union authorities.
  • The process of being a union member can be quite demanding and the time taken depends on the extent of competition and the conditions followed by the union leaders.
  1. Follow the Hiring Process

Every labor union has its own hiring process when it comes to aspiring longshoremen. The work available is initially assigned to the members and only the excess labor required is made available to non-members.

  • The unions have a hiring hall wherein the authorities assign the available work to longshoremen on the basis of their membership, work status, and seniority.
  • Generally, the job doesn’t have a fixed working schedule. The number of workers required and the hours of work involved depending on the extent of dock traffic.
  • As an aspiring longshoreman, you need to regularly visit the hiring hall. Non-members are given the status of casual workers and they are assigned tasks only after they are done with the members.
  1. Get Recognized as “Identified Casuals”

Getting the membership of a port workers’ union can take several months depending on the quality of work exhibited by an aspiring longshoreman. Before being a member, you need to achieve the status of an “identified casual”.

  • Based on your diligence and the hours of work, the union authorities would reward you with an identity card that officially recognizes you as an identified casual.
  • The status gives you an edge over non-identified casuals when it comes to the process of work distribution.
  1. Hone Your Skills

Once you have become an identified casual worker, you need to work on your skills as a longshoreman. This would improve your chances of having a job as a full-fledged union member.

  • Physical fitness and agility are the main attributes that need to be worked on. This would make it easier to perform strenuous tasks like loading and unloading cargos.
  • Besides being consistent, a good longshoreman should be able to work fast and finish the assigned tasks within the allotted timeframe.
  1. Doing Multiple Shifts

While choosing candidates for membership, labor unions compare casual workers on the basis of their skills and diligence. Hardworking candidates who are ready to work on flexible shift timings certainly get more preference.

  • As an aspiring longshoreman, you can improve your chances of being a union member by exhibiting your quality as a hard worker. You should be prepared to take up any shift timings that are available.
  • In the case of heavy dock traffic, you may also offer to work on double shifts.
  1. Apply for a Membership

Every union has a specific application procedure that candidates who aspire to become a member have to follow. Every year, the applications are distributed for a certain number of days. Note that, different trade unions may have different rules in this regard. To become a real longshoreman, every casual worker has to apply whenever the opportunity arrives.

  • Depending on the requirement of members, the process of selection can be quite competitive. Candidates who are not selected can apply again.
  • The selection process may or may not involve a direct interview. However, the candidates have to be prepared in all possible manners.


  • Being familiar with essential safety rules can make you seem more professional as a longshoreman. As a casual worker, you need to closely observe and learn the safety measures followed by senior longshoremen while handling various types of tasks.
  • Staying up to date about your labor union’s activities and reforms can improve your chances of getting a job as a full-fledged member.

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A longshoreman also has duties and responsibilities just like any other employee. Although there might be some differences in the job description of a longshoreman, here are common responsibilities for this type of profession.

Responsibilities of a longshoreman

  • Attend and participate in safety trainings and meetings
  • Ensure that work areas are clean, clear of debris and other obstructions, and tiny
  • Maintain awareness of surroundings for potential hazards when performing duties
  • Follow plans and instructions about vessel loading
  • Prepare cargo for lifting
  • Operate chainsaws to manage cargo, and drive cranes, forklifts, tractors, and trailers to move cargo
  • Load and unload cargo to and from the vessels
  • Secure the cargo on the vessels
  • Ensure to comply with the safety policies and procedures
  • Inform the supervisor of the damaged or unsafe cargo, including other safety hazards, illness, injury, or property damage

Longshoreman job description

If you are aspiring to become a longshoreman, perhaps familiarizing with the job description can give you a head’s up of what’s coming your way.

Basically, you have to provide assistance to a dockyard team, particularly in the loading and unloading of cargo. So, you need to inspect containers for possible damage, as well as follow the signals and instructions to ensure proficient loading and unloading of cargo.

Moreover, you need to apply your expertise in handling various cargo to perform your duties cautiously. At the same time, you have to do so efficiently and swiftly because it will help you ensure success in minimizing the time the vessels are docked in the harbor.

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