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The plus of being a longshoreman is having a flexible work schedule...for the most part. That means I can take time off to enjoy my life.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Needs Tape

An invaluable resource for any longshoreman is the needs tape. It's basically a recording changed multiple times during the day to give us an idea about what the work will look like for the day (8am-5pm), night (6pm-3am), and hoot owl (3am-8am) shifts. When it's first posted at around 11am, we can call in and hear about how much work will be for tomorrow day, tonight and the hoot owl. It's then updated as things change and finalized at around 3pm. Calling the tape also allows us to know where the peg stopped for each shift. From listening to the tape we can determine how much work will be available, what ships will be arriving, and if the ship will possibly be called back (guaranteed job for multiple shifts) or be finishing (the ship will be leaving port after all the containers have been discharged and loaded). We can then know what job we want to choose when we go to the dispatch hall. Listening to the tape can be quite daunting if you don't know what to listen for. A lot of information is conveyed at a rapid pace and even I need to listen to the tape a couple times if the amount of work for the day is quite hefty. Things like the number of gangs (groupings of workers from different job categories designed to support each crane working), the name and birth (location on the dock) that each ship will be arriving or working at, and any extra info like if any of the gangs are called back or if a ship is finishing. Provided you are close enough to the peg and you do your homework, you can be where the good work is and perhaps get off work early if things go smooth. If you fail to interpret the work correctly you could be passing up a highly desirable job. If there isn't much work for the day and you are closer to the peg on the night side it may be advantageous to skip the day shift and come in for the night shift. You just gotta listen to the tape.

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