How to become

How to Become a Longshoreman

How to Become a Longshoreman


You might appreciate working as a longshoreman if you wish to assist with the import and export of significant commodities and you desire a job with a promising employment future. For their difficult yet fulfilling work, longshoremen, also known as dockers, are an essential component of the shipping sector and are represented by labor organizations.

In this page, we define what a longshoreman is, describe what they do, explain how to become one, list some of their talents, and give details on their average national wage and employment prospects.

A longshoreman is what?

A dock worker is a professional who unloads and transports cargo at a dock or port. Historically, the position was known as a longshoreman. They are one among the last points of contact before cargo ships carry heavy loads of cargo across international borders. They maneuver a variety of sized freighters while balancing and weighing various kinds of cargo containers using their unique skill set. Although longshoremen have worked with other professions to form labor unions that help dock workers, they are also free to choose non-union employment.

What is the work of a longshoreman?

The following tasks might be carried out by a longshoreman:

  • moving freight with a variety of equipment, such as tractors, forklifts, and cranes.
  • working in noisy environments, at tremendous heights, or inclement weather
  • updating managers on any project modifications, transportation problems, or safety risks.
  • ensuring that each vessel’s cargo is securely fastened.
  • attending, taking part in, and running safety meetings.
  • cleaning the loading zones, walkways, and warehouses.
  • ensuring effective cargo loading and unloading so that ships can leave on time.
  • making and observing loading schedules for special kinds of freighters.
  • checking containers for damage and getting in touch with the right professionals for repairs.

Steps to become a longshoreman

Once you have a high school diploma or GED, you can work as a longshoreman. Being at least 18 years old and getting a current operator’s license are further prerequisites.

1. Obtain your ID card for transportation workers.

In order to operate on a dock or harbor in the US, you need to have the necessary certifications. Obtaining your Transportation Worker Identification Credential is necessary to gain access to restricted areas on ships.

You can take the following actions to obtain this credential:

  • Fill out an application in person at your neighborhood transportation security office or submit an online application.
  • To make an appointment with a representative, call or utilize an online appointment maker.
  • Bring your birth certificate, passport, or driver’s license to your appointment.
  • Pay for your card, which has a five-year expiration date.
  • You can either pick up the card from your neighborhood transportation security office or have it addressed to your home address.
2. Meet the necessary physical standards

It takes a great deal of physical strength and endurance to work on a dock. You might go through a physical exam to make sure you fulfill the essential physical criteria. Before approving you to work as a longshoreman, hiring managers and doctors may take the following factors into account:

  • Your capacity to lift, handle, load, and prepare huge cargo containers as well as hefty packages
  • How effectively you stay balanced in extreme weather and at high altitudes
  • How skillfully can you balance heavy freight containers while moving them?
  • How fast and how far you can walk
3. Acquire practical work experience

Many hiring managers like candidates for dock work to have held at least one position that is similar. Although it can be difficult to gain experience, you can list employment that align with some of the abilities needed for dock work on your resume. For instance, if hiring managers learn that you have experience using a forklift or performing physically difficult labor, they may be more willing to interview you. 

The following are more instances of relevant occupations you could list on your resume:

  • Worker in construction

The work of construction laborers includes trenching, creating scaffolding, and preparing the ground for building foundations. They are also in charge of loading, transporting, and unloading construction supplies.

  • Material mover and manual worker

Moving freight, furniture, and manufacturing materials is a common task for hand laborers and material movers at warehouses and manufacturing facilities. You might be better able to carry out your duties on a dock if you have prior expertise moving, weighing, and balancing these objects with a team of experts.

  • Bricklayer or bricklayer

Brick, concrete, and mortar are the materials that brick and block masons use to build walls, arches, and structures. You might be physically prepared for dock work by this position’s requirements.

4. Look for non-union employment

Before you may join, unions need you to put in a particular number of hours working on a dock. You might apply for non-union positions to broaden your experience and establish new contacts in the business world. Here are several ways to look for non-union jobs:

  • To apply in person for contract work, go to a shipping or stevedoring company.
  • Search for dock worker openings on job search websites.
  • Look for job openings on the port and harbor in your neighborhood newspaper.
  • Consult local employment organizations for assistance, particularly those that place a high priority on jobs in docks and shipyards.
5. Sign up for a union

Since unions can take a while to process your application, it’s crucial to do so early in your longshoreman career. Once you join a union, you are then entitled to benefits including paid time off for vacations and sick days as well as paid holidays. Additionally, unions streamline and simplify the process of finding job shifts.

You can take the following actions to apply to join a union:

  • Scholastic unions

Find out which unions are active in your neighborhood and learn about the membership criteria. The International Longshoremen’s Association works along various East Coast rivers, the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, the Great Lakes, Eastern Canada, and Puerto Rico. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union operates in harbors along the West Coast.

  • Visit a union office in your community

By making an impact, introduce yourself at the union office nearest you. Additionally, you may be able to gain knowledge about your union’s employment procedures and forge business relationships with union leaders.

  • Early enrollment

Unions only accept membership applications at specified times, and the next enrollment session may not begin for months or even years. Keep up with enrollment events at your local union so you can be among the first to apply.

  • Share your knowledge 

Working a certain number of hours in positions with duties akin to dock work qualifies you for a union job. Cite all of your longshoreman experience, detailing the precise number of hours spent on each key duty.

6. Working as a recognised casual

After you apply for a union job, union officials may refer to you as a “identified casual,” which refers to a person who is eligible to join a union but does not receive union work. Union authorities may extend an invitation to join the union after you have clocked enough shifts as a recognised casual. If you accept the invitation, you go up the ranks until you are a Class A member, at which point you have full union protection and more job assignments are available to you.

7. Don’t use drugs.

To demonstrate that they are drug-free, both new longshoremen and those wishing to advance in the ranks must undergo drug tests. This is a safety concern because longshoremen are tasked with handling bulky, potentially hazardous goods and using heavy equipment that could injure them or others if they are intoxicated.

  • As long as you are currently drug-free, it is OK to have a history of drug use. Criminal drug charges do not exclude someone from getting a TWIC card.
  • If you currently use drugs, you must stop using them before you may apply to become a longshoreman. To create a strategy for quitting, speak with your doctor or a drug and alcohol helpline. If your habit is out of control and you don’t believe you can stop on your own, you might want to think about enrolling in a rehab programme.

Competencies for a longshoreman

You could employ the following abilities in your employment as a dock worker:

  • Observant of all safety, security, record-keeping, storage, and governmental restrictions
  • Inspecting equipment, identifying problems, and making fixes
  • Great reflexes, hand-eye coordination, hearing, physical dexterity, and hearing
  • Utilizing suitable techniques for loading and unloading various types of vessels and managing and conveying various types of cargo
  • Operating large vehicles and machines including forklifts, sweepers, front-end loaders, and yard jockeys.
  • Long periods of walking, crouching, lifting, balancing, and working your arms and legs
  • Expressing oneself effectively and working with others
  • Using time-management techniques to quickly load and unload freight

Longshoreman pay and employment prospects

The average annual compensation for professionals in this industry is $52,914. The employment of hand laborers and material movers, which includes dock workers, is anticipated to expand by 7% by 2030, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There are a number of reasons for this increase in employment, including:

  • A rise in online orders that necessitate delivery and preparation
  • The use of more automated equipment in warehouse docks that needs dock workers’ maintenance and stocking
  • Employees leaving the company or changing positions

Alternatives to Maritime Work

Ask for non-unionized dock work by calling your local port

People who are not longshoremen’s union members may apply for additional longshoreman roles or other types of jobs at some ports. Ask the port by phone whether any such positions are available and how to apply for them.

  • You may also look online to see whether the port in your area maintains a job board where they list opportunities and other details about positions available at the docks.
Obtain training in maritime fields if you are unable to find employment at a nearby port

Community colleges and other educational institutions provide a wide range of maritime-focused programmes. As an alternative to working as a longshoreman, enroll in a programme that appeals to you in order to open doors to other marine careers.

  • You could pursue a degree in nautical science or a diploma in seamanship or ship operations, for instance. With a degree or certificate from one of these kinds of institutions, you could be qualified for a range of maritime positions with governmental agencies like the coast guard.
Apply for other maritime positions for which you are qualified

Look for job possibilities in maritime industries online and in your local ads. Submit an application for any position for which you are qualified on the basis of your education and experience.

  • If you’ve earned a degree in a maritime-related field, network with any contacts you made via the course to look for employment prospects. For instance, your instructors may be able to point you in the direction of potential employers or provide you information on where to hunt for jobs.
  • Other maritime careers include being a marine surveyor, working for a shipping company, being a port manager, or even being a marine technician. Both on land and aboard ships, there are several marine occupations.


What does maritime mean?

Almost anything associated with the sea or any body of water is considered maritime, particularly when it comes to shipping, navigation, and marine engineering.

What should I wear?

A hard hat, steel toe boots or shoes, and a luminous safety vest are typically required. Shorts are typically not permitted at places of employment, therefore wearing long pants or jeans would be appropriate there.

What advantages do longshoremen have?

The Longshore Act offers a range of workers’ compensation benefits, including medical care for specified illnesses and injuries, disability payments to help with lost wages resulting from a work-related illness or injury, and survivorship payments to the families of employees who pass away as a result of an accident at work.

Do federal personnel include longshoremen?

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is a federal workers’ compensation law that offers benefits to specific marine workers as well as civilian staff on military stations around the world.

Do sailors fall under the Longshore Act?

A “master or member of a crew of any vessel” is not included in the LHWCA’s scope of coverage. Instead, the Jones Act protects crew workers. The phrase “seaman” under the Jones Act has been refined to “master or member of a crew.” As a result, the LHWCA includes the crucial criteria for Jones Act coverage.

Who is covered by the US Longshore and Harbor Workers Act?

The Longshore and Port Employees’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), which was passed in 1927, provides lost earnings, medical compensation, and rehabilitation assistance to longshore, harbor, and other marine workers who suffer an injury at work or contract an occupational disease connected to their line of work.