The MPA hails the initiative by the Maritime Employers Association (MEA) that resulted in a great video showcasing the trades related to freight transport and logistics, especially the trade of longshore worker for women and visible minorities.

Against a backdrop of magnificent images illustrating port infrastructures and operations, this video concretely explains and presents the job of longshore worker at the Port of Montreal.

Dockworker: a well-paying job that takes concentration and dexterity.

Wedged in the driver’s seat in the glassed-in cab, between heaven and earth, her hands gripping levers, Manon Comtois keeps her eyes fixed on the container hanging from the long cable of her crane.

She needs all her concentration as she lowers the heavy 40-foot long metal box into position, 20 metres below, onto the trailer of a truck that looks like a toy. All four corners of the container must absolutely and perfectly match the four corners of the trailer. Slowly …

Click! To Manon’s right, the yellow button on the dashboard lit up, informing her that the container is properly secured to the trailer. With the push of a button, Manon disconnects the container from the cable connected to the crane. One down!

“Even though I followed in my father’s footsteps, I am not doing the same job he did in his time!” said this daughter – and sister! – of a longshoreman, who already has 21 years of experience.

In fact, before automated equipment came along, dock work was much more physically difficult. To unload a ship, the longshoremen had only the strength of their two arms. Cargo arrived in bulk, in bags or in wooden boxes. It took weeks to empty a vessel.

Now unloading time is calculated in hours! It takes a few days at most to empty a container ship of its thousands of containers.

Dock work duties

The tasks are many and varied. The job of crane operator requires further training. There are several types of cranes on the various terminals. A longshoreman or longshorewoman can also be assigned to drive a terminal truck, a loader, an excavator or a forklift, which come in several types.  Some dockworkers also act as checkers, meaning they coordinate the movement of goods on terminal territory.

The challenges

The biggest challenge in the dock work profession according to Manon and Sébastien is the scheduling. A dockworker must be available 19 days out of 21 and may have to work an eight-hour shift at any time of the day or night. Loading and unloading vessels can be done 24/7 depending on when the vessels calls at the port. Freight transport doesn’t wait!

The difficulties directly related to performing the tasks are the whims of Mother Nature: intense cold, wind, fog, snow, rain, hail, storms and thunderstorms.

Who’s it for?

“The right type of candidate is someone who can work in a team, has a good sense of adaptability and a strong learning ability,” said Guillaume Couture, Director, Manpower and Dispatch, Maritime Employers Association (MEA). There are about 1,000 longshoremen in Montreal, including about 120 longshorewomen.

Who hires dockworkers?

The Maritime Employers Association (MEA) hires all the dockworkers for the ports of Montreal and Trois-Rivières. When a vessel is about to arrive at a port terminal, the terminal operator in question lets the MEA know how many dockworkers will be needed. The MEA is also responsible for training dockworkers and negotiating their working conditions on behalf of the companies they represent.

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