Longshore workers (NOC 7451)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Longshore workers transfer cargo from ships to trucks and trains as well as move cargo around on docks. They may do a variety of jobs, from operating cranes to driving machinery to loading materials. 

Watch the video below to see what it's like to be a longshore worker.

Common job titles
  • dockworker / dock hand / marine cargo
  • loader, barge / boat / tanker
  • longshore / wharf
  • lumper
  • operator, shop-loader / tower-loader
  • stevedore


Longshore workers:

  • Drive industrial trucks, tractors and other mobile equipment to transfer cargo (such as containers, crated items, cars and pallet-mounted machinery) within range of cranes and hoists
  • Use winches and other hoisting devices to load/unload cargo onto ships and to move cargo from one vessel to another
  • Operate mechanical towers to load vessels with materials, such as coal and ore
  • Run equipment to transfer bulk materials, such as grain, into the storage area (also called the hold) of vessels
  • Connect hoses and operate equipment to transfer liquids into storage tanks on vessels
  • Secure (lash and shore) cargo aboard ships
  • Clean the storage areas of ships 
  • Maintain and repair cargo equipment

Work environment

People in this occupation work on a dispatch system. They are hired through locals of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and are dispatched each day to work for marine terminal operators. Longshore workers work at different terminals on different days. Most terminals also have some regular employees. 

Longshore workers are employed in all major ports in B.C. Since most terminals operate 24 hours, longshore workers tend to work shifts.

The work is physical and requires good focus. Longshore workers are outdoors in all types of weather. They work with heavy equipment, instruments, machinery and tools that can cause serious injury. They may be exposed to chemicals, harmful dust from bulk cargo, noise and vibration. In addition, they are subject to the dangers that come from working on docks around cranes and towers.

Insights from industry

The dispatch system offers longshore workers flexibility. Many workers enjoy the freedom that comes from working for different employers and with different co-workers each day. Longshore workers also have a wide variety of roles they can choose from.
Workers with experience have good job prospects and strong opportunities for advancement. New workers have access to fewer jobs initially, but many opportunities for training.
More opportunities are expected due to the recent expansions in the Port of Vancouver and Port of Prince Rupert.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Longshore workers usually begin as labourers. After a short time, they can apply to train in more advanced roles. Some may become machinery drivers or crane operators. Others may become “checkers” who record and monitor the cargo being loaded/unloaded from ships.
With experience, longshore workers can advance into supervisory roles, such as crew foreperson.

Additional resources

  • BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA)
  • International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU)