What are stevedoring services?

Before detailing the purposes of a stevedoring company, a clarification on loading and unloading: In broad strokes these activities make up the tasks related with the transportation of cargo on board a ship or from it. Tasks such as the placing, sorting, fastening and protection of the load inside the vessel. And also the corresponding tasks when the cargo from the ship needs to be unloaded.

What is a stevedoring company?

A company specialized in loading and unloading vessels. It operates on a licence granted by the corresponding port authority. In Spain there are currently a total of 28 port authorities distributed across the country.

What are the functions of a stevedoring company?

These companies are in charge of handling the cargo operations within the port. The first function of a stevedoring company is the stowage of shipping containers, the loading and unloading of its cargo.

Afterwards they will proceed to sort the different goods that comprise the unloaded cargo. They also have to manage the transportation to its corresponding location within the port.

A stevedoring company is also in charge of the logistical aspects. Crane installation and stowage are some of the other functions carried out by stevedoring companies. For this purpose these companies usually operate heavy machinery such as heavy load cranes, gantry cranes, and other vehicles like reach stackers. The latter are designed to lift containers, load cargo and transport it.

To be able to provide these functions, stevedoring companies need a professional workforce capable of carrying out all the different tasks, from the loading of cargo to the actual running of the company.

What is the role of a stevedore?

A stevedore is a professional in charge of cargo operations: loading, distributing and transporting cargo and other dockside functions. They are responsibles for loading and unloading a ship’s cargo. These workers unload cargo and transport it to and from other ships or to a different location within the port. They are also in charge of any other stacking or sorting of cargo inside port limits when needed.

A more detailed view on the required functions of a stevedore follows:

  • Driving the transport vehicles required for the loading and unloading of a ship’s cargo.
  • Operating the vehicles and lifting equipment necessary in the stevedoring service, such as forklifts, cranes and other specific vehicles.
  • Fastening and lashing of pallets used for cargo stacking after unloading.
  • Sorting cargo across the different locations in port for storing purposes or to be made ready for shipping. Workers need to be familiar with the course and itinerary of cargo shipping routes.
  • Proper sorting and storing of all and any containers used in cargo transport. Likewise containers have to be stowed on board a ship so as to balance the weight and prevent the load from causing problems out to sea.

The future of the stevedore profession looks bright in Spain. Globalization of economy and trading favours the development of this occupation. Workers are required to possess a general knowledge of the English language, for the reason that they will be communicating with other workers from various parts of the world. In conclusion, they must be knowledgeable in everything related with the loading and unloading of maritime vessels.

Regulations on the safe loading and unloading of vessels

The necessity of a regulation is derived from a history of maritime accidents and disasters. After the sinking of the Titanic, 1912, some international regulations and agreements were passed that alluded to the loading and unloading of cargo.

First of all, the Royal Legislative Decree 2/2011, November 5th, which is the Law on Ports and National Merchant Navy. Includes loading and unloading services within the rest of port services. It also states that those services are basic public services.

In 2014 the liberalisation of the loading and unloading services took place by demand of EU communitary authorities. This change in the norm produced the Royal Decree-Law 4/2017, February 24th, modifying the set of rules for the sector’s workers. The important part of the norm is the freedom of contract by port stevedoring companies, the removal of the special relation involving these workers and also better terms for employers in order to stimulate contracting.

However, said norm didn’t pass validation by the Congress of Deputies and it wasn’t until a few years later that the Government would pass another one, this time as a Law. 2017 saw Royal Decree-Law 7/2017, May 12th, modifying the relation of workers of the sector. In general terms, the norm follows the same principles as the one from 2014 but adds a few specifications:

  • Professional Certification is needed to operate the loading, unloading and cargo transfer tasks.
  • Sector agreements are prioritized over collective agreements.
  • Some of the benefits that appeared in the 2014 norm are removed from the current one.

In broad strokes this piece hopefully provides some answers to any reasonable doubts on stevedoring, and the loading and unloading of a ship’s cargo. Part of the fundamental tasks in the shipping business. Suisca Group offers a professional service with more than 30 years of experience. Suisca Group covers all of your needs in the sector.

M.: Be informed on the main functions of a stevedoring company and the norms and regulations observed by loading professionals.