AskDefine | Define longshoremen

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Noun

longshoremen
  1. Plural of longshoreman

Extensive Definition

Loading and unloading ships requires knowledge of the operation of loading equipment, the proper techniques for lifting and stowing cargo, and correct handling of hazardous materials. In addition, workers must be physically strong and be able to follow orders.
In earlier days, men who load and unload ships had to tie down cargoes with rope. A type of stopper knot is called the stevedore knot. The methods of securely tying up parcels of goods is called stevedore lashing or stevedore knotting. While loading a general cargo vessel, they use dunnage, which are pieces of wood (or nowadays sometimes strong inflatable bags) set down to keep the cargo out of any water that might be lying in the hold or are placed as shims between cargo crates to keep them from shifting during a voyage.
Today, the vast majority of non-bulk cargo is transported in shipping containers. The containers arrive at a port by truck, rail or another ship and are stacked in the port's storage area. When the ship that will be transporting them arrives, the containers that it is offloading are unloaded by a crane. The containers either leave the port by truck or rail or are put in the storage area until they are put on another ship. Once the ship is offloaded, the containers it is leaving with are brought to the dock by truck. A crane lifts the containers from the trucks into the ship. As the containers pile up in the ship, the workers connect them to the ship and to each other. The jobs involved include the crane operators, the workers who connect the containers to the ship and each other, the truck drivers that transport the containers from the dock and storage area, the workers who track the containers in the storage area and as they are loaded and unloaded, as well as various supervisors. Those workers at the port who handle and move the containers are likely to be considered stevedores or longshoremen.
Because they work outdoors in all types of weather, these workers adopted a type of cap that has a snug fit, is warm, and is easily put away in a pocket. These are a type of beanie or watch cap called variously stevedore's cap or stevedore's hat.
Before containerization, freight was often handled with a longshoreman’s hook, a tool which became emblematic of the profession (at least in the United States) .
Traditionally, stevedores would have no fixed job and turn up at the docks in the morning hoping to find someone willing to employ them for the day. London dockers and deal porters called this practice "standing on the stones", while in the United States it was referred to as Shaping. In Britain, due to changes in employment laws, such jobs have either become permanent or have been to converted to temporary jobs.
Dock workers have been a prominent part of the modern labor movement.

Usage

Australia

In Australia, stevedores or dockers were historically referred to as wharf labourers and were colloquially called wharfies. The Maritime Union of Australia has coverage of these workers, and fought a substantial industrial battle in the 1998 Australian waterfront dispute to prevent the contracting out of work to non-union contractors.

New Zealand

New Zealand usage is highly similar to the Australian version; waterfront workers are also known as "wharfies." The 1951 New Zealand waterfront dispute, involving New Zealand stevedores, was the largest and bitterest industrial dispute in the country's history.

United States

In usual present-day United States waterfront word usage, a stevedore is a man or a company who manages the operation of loading or unloading a ship. A stevedore typically owns equipment used in the loading or discharge operation and hires longshoremen who load and unload cargo under the direction of a stevedore superintendent.
It is common but inaccurate to use the terms “stevedore” and “longshoreman” interchangeably. However, even the U.S. Congress has done so. See, for example, the Ship Mortgage Act, 46 app. U.S.C. section 31301(5)(C) which designates both "crew wages" and "stevedore wages" as preferred maritime liens. The intent of the statute was to give the wages of the seamen and longshoremen the same level of protection. Nevertheless, sometimes the word "stevedore" is still used to mean "man who loads and unloads a ship", as British "docker".
Today, a commercial stevedoring company also may contract with a terminal owner to manage all terminal operations. Many large container ship operators have established in-house stevedoring operations to handle cargo at their own terminals and to provide stevedoring services to other container carriers.
Two unions within the AFL-CIO represent longshoremen in the United States: the International Longshoremen's Association, which represents longshoremen on the East Coast, on the Great Lakes and connected waterways and along the Gulf of Mexico, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents longshoremen along the West Coast, in Hawaii and Alaska, and, through an affiliate, in Canada.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the definition of a stevedore varies from port to port. In some ports, only the highly skilled master of a loading gang is referred to as a "stevedore". "Docker" is the usual general term used in the UK for a man who loads or unloads ships and performs various other jobs required at a sea port.

19th century

In Two Years Before the Mast the author describes the steeving of a merchant sailing ship. This was the process of taking a mostly-full hold and cramming in more material. In this case, the hold was filled with hides from the California hide trade up to four feet below the ceiling. "Books" composed of 25-50 cattle skins folded into a bundle were prepared, and a small opening created in the middle of one of the existing stacks. Then the book was shoved in by use of a pair of thick strong pieces of wood called steeves. The steeves had one end shaped as a wedge which was placed into the middle of a book to shove it into the stack. The other ends were pushed on by means of block and tackle attached to the hull and overhead beams and hauled on by sailors.

Famous stevedores

Famous former stevedores and longshoremen include:

Stevedores in popular media

In 1949, reporter Malcolm Johnson was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for a 24-part investigative series titled Crime on the Waterfront published in the New York Sun.
This material was fictionalized and used as a basis for the vastly influential film, On the Waterfront. The film stars Marlon Brando as a longshoreman, and the longshoremen's working conditions figure in the film's plot. Playwright Arthur Miller was involved in the early stages of the development of the film, and his play A View from the Bridge also deals with the troubled life of a longshoreman.
In the HBO Series The Wire, the Stevedore Union and its members, particularly Frank Sobotka, working in Baltimore figure prominently in the second season's story arc.
Welsh rock band Budgie's 1972 album Squawk features a song titled Hot As A Docker's Armpit. It tells the story of a girl who lead singer Burke Shelley finds extremely attractive.
Tom Cruise played a longshoreman in the movie War of the Worlds.
longshoremen in German: Hafenarbeiter
longshoremen in French: Stevedore
longshoremen in Dutch: Stuwadoor
longshoremen in Portuguese: Estivador
longshoremen in Russian: Грузчик
longshoremen in Finnish: Ahtaaja
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